WASHINGTON — As the Los Angeles Dodgers observed a moment of silence Tuesday night, the Nationals Park flags at half mast, the Capitol dome gleaming just up the street, manager Dave Roberts struggled to focus on baseball.
He also reached a breaking point – with gun violence, and mass murder, and lawmakers he called “very irresponsible” in their inability to create common-sense gun laws.
After a Texas man murdered 19 schoolchildren and two teachers shortly after acquiring an AR-15 rifle and observing his 18th birthday, Roberts could no longer look away after the news broke shortly before Tuesday’s game. By Wednesday afternoon, the rhythm of the Dodgers’ 162-game season took a break as Roberts took it upon himself to speak for the entire organization.
“What are we going to do about it?” Roberts asked before Wednesday’s series finale against the Washington Nationals. “Right is right. And not being able to do background checks on people to carry AR rifles, automatic rifles – I just don’t see the other side. To get a driver’s permit, a job, 25 years (old) to rent a car – but to be able to go and buy an automatic weapon is very scary and the numbers don’t lie.
“It’s ironic I’m sitting here in the nation’s capital, where it’s been run up the flagpole. But it seems to come to a hard stop at the Senate. How there can’t be a bipartisan consensus on an issue like this is very disheartening, very irresponsible by our leaders. Something needs to be done and be proactive about it.
“When is enough enough?”
The Texas shooting comes nearly 10 years after the murder of 20 schoolchildren and six staff members at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School created an inflection point in the nation’s gun illness. And it came 10 days after a white supremacist murdered 10 people in a supermarket in a predominantly Black Buffalo neighborhood. That time span marked a period where myriad gun control efforts – red flag laws, universal background checks, assault-rifle bans and other policies largely supported in public polls – failed to earn sufficient support in the Senate, even as some individual states strengthened their laws.
Roberts is friends with Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, a Dodgers fan raised in L.A. who befriended Roberts during the manager’s rookie season of 2016. Kerr has long spoken out in favor of gun control; his father, Malcolm, was murdered outside his university office in Beirut in 1984.
Kerr offered another impassioned plea before Tuesday night’s Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, held about 400 miles from the shooting in Dallas. Roberts, 49, who has two college-aged children, felt it was time to break character and back up his friend.
“I’ve been raised to stay in my lane,” says Roberts, who is of Black and Japanese descent and born on a military base in Japan, “but in light of what happened yesterday and what’s happened the last few years, I have young kids and I went to public schools.
“Education is king. And to have parents afraid to send their kids to school, kids afraid to go to school for their health and well-being is just sad beyond measure. Two teachers lost their lives. You’re talking about 8 year olds and 9 year olds that won’t have an opportunity to live life.”
Dodgers All-Star Mookie Betts tweeted similar sentiments after hitting two home runs in Tuesday’s game, and Roberts felt confident he was representing the views of the entire organization. Roberts said the murder of schoolchildren “buckled me.”
He also works in a profession where job security is fleeting, at best. He’d prefer the country’s lawmakers not fear the backlash of supporting laws to save Americans, particularly our youngest.
“I love this country as much as anyone,” says Roberts. “But the people leading our country are supposed to take care of our walls first, and that’s both sides of the aisle. If you have Americans killing Americans, I don’t think they’re doing the job they’re called to do, to be quite frank.
“We just can’t be afraid to hold people to a higher standard of accountability. It shouldn’t be about self-preservation, self-fulfillment. It should be about what’s right is right, and what protects American citizens, kids.
“There’s no other spin.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dodgers' Dave Roberts calls out lawmakers after Texas school shooting