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Saturday sports: Rival teams unite to condemn gun violence

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It is now time for sports. And sports, too, has been affected by the shocking shooting deaths in Uvalde, Texas. Rival teams have united to condemn gun violence, and an NBA coach has made a passionate plea for gun control. Joined now by NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thanks, Scott.

SIMON: Let's start with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees - played against each other this week, but they had an extraordinary online collaboration, didn't they?

GOLDMAN: They did. The team's social media departments got together, and instead of doing normal game coverage, stats and video highlights and the like, they posted facts and figures about gun violence in the U.S. In a tweet announcing this, the Rays wrote, we can't look the other way. We all know if nothing changes, nothing changes. We invite you to join us. Do what you can, when you can, where you can because our lives depend on it. Now, some didn't like this. They unfollowed the teams on Twitter or angrily denounced the - you know, demanded the normal game coverage. But reportedly, an hour after the Yanks posted the plan to focus on gun violence, the posts had more than 70,000 likes, which a team spokesman said was one of the bigger favorable responses they've seen.

Also in baseball last night, Scott, before San Francisco played Cincinnati, San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler did not come out for the national anthem. He wrote in a blog post yesterday that he didn't want to glorify the only country where these mass shootings take place regularly. He also wrote, when I was the same age as the children in Uvalde, my father taught me to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance when I believed my country was representing its people well or to protest and stay seated when it wasn't. I don't believe it is representing us well right now. And Kapler told reporters he'll continue his protest until he feels better about the direction of the country.

SIMON: Very powerful moment this week when Steve Kerr, of course, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, spoke at a press conference just before his team's victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Let's hear what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE KERR: When are we going to do something? I'm tired. I'm so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I'm so tired of the - excuse me. I'm sorry. I'm tired of the moments of silence. Enough.

GOLDMAN: Quite a raw moment...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...Obviously, by someone who's spoken out in recent years about issues like gun violence but, you know, never with so much anger, so much anguish. Kerr was speaking as a U.S. citizen, but there's a personal connection to all this, as you well know, right?

SIMON: I do. I got to know Steve Kerr when I was traveling with the Chicago Bulls to write a book. His father - he - Steve Kerr is one of the most remarkable people I've ever met. His father, Malcolm Kerr, was president of the American University in Beirut and was assassinated by gunmen in a terrorist killing in 1984. Steve told me that he saw sports as a refuge but not as a place to hide from the real world. And he knows the terrible crime and loss of gun violence personally, and he just doesn't feel this country that he came to and loves does enough to stem it.

GOLDMAN: You know, I think sports can be a place to hide for many fans, a place to get away. But these actions by Kerr, by Kapler, by the Rays and the Yankees - they are saying it's not time for distraction and diversion - rather, a time to look squarely at problems as a first step to fixing them. And, you know, Scott, that seems to be a continuation of a newer role for sports in recent years as activism has become more common.

SIMON: Yeah. NPR's Tom Goldman, thank you so much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF LITTLE PEOPLE'S "FAREWELL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.