Though a few calls for political action have been sprinkled throughout the array of tweets, Facebook posts, and statements about the tragic shooting that occurred in Las Vegas recently, the responses have overwhelmingly just been voicings of solidarity, sadness, and support. Countless celebrities have spoken out and expressed their cares and prayers for the victims of the mass shooting. Included among these, of course, are professional athletes. Professional athletes have always occupied a space of revered celebrity in our culture, and thus had a platform to release statements and opinions. However, perhaps now more than ever, with many more pro players contributing to political dialogue and performing social demonstration, we turn to them to hear their takes on current events.
While many other types of celebrities have to be at least a little cautious about political opinions and tones they adopt when discussing tense, emotionally-charged issues like the Vegas shooting, professional athletes aren’t required to have as much concern for this problem. Ultimately, though fame is certainly a by-product of their profession, their professional success doesn’t completely or even mostly hinge on their public likeability and branding – although those things certainly have their place in the world of pro sports. This allows athletes to speak more candidly and personally, especially when addressing tragedies and messy situations like the shooting in Vegas.
We see this in Philidelphia Eagles’ own quarterback, Carson Wentz, who offered up prayers for everyone affected by the shooting, claiming on Twitter that “[t]he World needs Jesus in a bad way.”
His teammates, Rodney McLeod, Rick Lovato, Torrey Smith, and Zach Ertz also took to Twitter to express their mourning and support for the victims through prayers. But the Eagles aren’t the only ones setting this trend.
“Pray for Vegas!! … My prayers sent to the heavens above for all the families,” was tweeted by LeBron James on the morning of Oct. 2, the day after the shooting took place. Many of his peers, for instance Bryce Harper, Chris Paul, and Mike Timlin, the latter of whom was at the concert where the gunman attacked, echoed these prayers and sentiments, invoking God in their statements on the Vegas shooting.
On a larger scale, whole professional sports teams are also honoring the victims of the Vegas massacre. The Raiders, who plan to move to Vegas in two years, played with helmet decals that read “Vegas Strong.” The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights have indicated that their plans for Tuesday night’s games would be focused on a special tribute to those killed in the shooting.
“We have to do our part to help this city past this whole ordeal,” said Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland, who predicted a very emotional response from the city at the game. The team’s Twitter announced that rather than ads, messages of support and the words #VegasStrong would play during the game.
“[Tuesday] night is not about us. It’s about honoring and remembering the victims, supporting their families, and recognizing the first responders who did tremendous work,” explained George McPhee, the team’s general manager. Gerard Gallant, a Golden Knights coach, agreed that the night was about something much bigger than hockey or the team.
“It’s bigger than hockey — a lot bigger,” said McPhee.
Professional athletes will continue to be notable celebrities and public figures and, though they are often cautious of their image as brand spokespeople and role models, often what we see of them, especially in tense and trying times such as the Vegas massacre, is authenticity and true concern. So many of us have idolized athletes from childhood on, and there is something so comforting about seeing that your hero feels the same way you do about a nationwide tragedy, and it is comforting to see them offer the support to those who need it.