Gay: Steve Kerr’s Uvalde response shows why sports columns will be irrelevant until gun violence is as well

JASON GAY badly wants to get back to talking sports, but not just yet. Nothing comes as close in importance as to ending the conversation on gun violence in the US.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was visibly shaken by the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. Picture: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was visibly shaken by the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. Picture: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I went to my son’s Little League game on Tuesday, and the parents were quieter than usual, as if we all felt guilty about enjoying something innocent on such a brutal day. I definitely felt guilty. It was impossible not to think of those families in Texas, just getting the unimaginable news.

We are a day and a half removed from the latest American horror, the slaughter of 19 children and 2 teachers in an elementary school classroom, and though my thoughts are primarily with their loved ones, who face unbearable anguish, I feel this entire country is quietly traumatised. We don’t talk about that trauma enough, but it’s surely there, and I hope you’re doing OK.

I’m furious. I feel it’s the only rational response to repeating this, over and over, as if it’s unavoidably routine, with no serious national motivation to lessen the likelihood it will happen again. We have become cauterised to the rituals: the escalating death tolls, the yellow police tape, the grieving relatives, the inevitable revelation of the gun, and the heartbreaking photographs of the victims, ordinary neighbours who just wanted to get through a day at school, a trip to the supermarket, or a morning in church.

Gun control advocates gather to outside the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in response to the massacre at Robb Elementary School. Picture: Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP
Gun control advocates gather to outside the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in response to the massacre at Robb Elementary School. Picture: Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP

The cycle has become so grotesquely cynical. We move quickly from thoughts and prayers to political manoeuvring and whataboutism. We dismiss options because they’re not perfect solutions. We shrug and say “it’s complicated,” without the faintest attempt to tackle the complications.

The Onion headline got it right long ago:‘No Way to Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

Meanwhile, for a country allegedly consumed with free speech, we’re getting awfully good at declaring who is and who isn’t allowed to have a public opinion. You may be wondering why you’re reading this on a sports page. I’m right there with you: Why are you reading this on a sports page?

I hate it, too. But it feels like the only story worth talking about right now.

Steve Kerr felt the same way. On Tuesday evening, the Golden State Warriors head coach stepped into a pregame press conference and said he was not there to discuss the impending Game 4 between the Warriors and Dallas Mavericks. He slapped a hand hard on the table.

“When are we going to do something?” he asked. “I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families. I’m so tired. Excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough!”

Kerr called on politicians to act on HR8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 which passed the House but hasn’t been taken up in the Senate. His outburst went viral, getting raves from those who agreed with his rendering, but also predictable eyerolls from those who dislike the flavour of Kerr’s politics and past positions.

Round and round we go, pettily negating each other, instead of confronting our shared crisis. Muted was the most salient fact: Kerr’s father, Malcolm, was the victim of gun violence, assassinated by a terrorist in 1984 while the president of the American University of Beirut.

This is personal for Kerr. But it has to be personal for all of us, too.

Please do me a favour: Take a moment to step away from the fray and look at the photographs of those students in Uvalde. They’re everywhere; they’re not hard to find. An 8-year-old. 10-year-olds. 11-year-olds. Those are third-graders. Fourth-graders. They are Little Leaguers. Football players. Dancers. Artists. Honour students.

They are children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings. They were about to be graduates, onto summer and the next grade.

A makeshift memorial has been erected in memory of the children, and the schoolteacher who lost their lives in the latest mass shooting. Picture: Chadan Khanna/AFP
A makeshift memorial has been erected in memory of the children, and the schoolteacher who lost their lives in the latest mass shooting. Picture: Chadan Khanna/AFP

Instead they are dead, as are two teachers, mothers both, the most recent casualties in an epidemic of violence so ghoulishly wrapped in politics, finger-pointing and inertia most of us assume it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

Here’s me: I am the son of two schoolteachers. My wife is a schoolteacher. I have a daughter about to finish first grade and son about to wrap third grade. I look at the bright faces in the photographs of the children in Uvalde and I see the bright faces of my own kids.

I bet they liked the same things my kids do. I bet they liked the same animals, songs, toys, jokes, games, and books.

They had families and futures and ballgames to play, too.

When Tuesday night’s Little League game ended, the parents all clapped, and we took our children home. That can’t be a privilege. Everyone deserves that.

-The Wall Street Journal