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‘Definition of insanity’: Megan Rapinoe, NWSL peers decry US gun laws

(Stephen Brashear/USA TODAY Sports)

To have to play a soccer game on Wednesday night while the country still reeled from the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday was a conflicting feeling for Kansas City Current midfielder Victoria Pickett.

“Although soccer is such a huge part of our lives, it seems a little bit insignificant when the lives of little kids and teachers are at stake, when really they should just be in a learning environment,” she said.

The Current and OL Reign held a moment of silence for the victims of the tragedy before their match Wednesday night, the only one on the NWSL calendar. After the Reign’s 1-0 win, their first of the season, players and coaches shared their thoughts on the tragedy at Robb Elementary, which left 19 children and two adults dead after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire inside a classroom.

“Honestly, at a loss of words,” Pickett said. “It’s very hard to understand when something like that is very preventable, but I guess people just need to start going to the governors and supporting more strict gun laws.”

“We’re living in an insane country when it comes to gun control and gun laws,” OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe said. “I mean, there’s literally a mass shooting every day. It actually struck me when we went to do a moment of silence today because we just did one three f–king days ago for a different mass shooting in a different city. It’s literally the definition of insanity. The entire country is being completely held hostage in a hostile environment where you can go to church, you can go to the grocery store, you can go to school and end up dead.”

Kansas City acting head coach Lloyd Yaxley, stepping in for Matt Potter as COVID-19 protocols left him and four Current players sidelined, urged the players before the match to call their parents and tell them they love them, then go on the field and do their families proud.

In his opening statement after the game, Yaxley said that wearing the black armband and offering condolences to the families wasn’t enough. Echoing the pleas of the players and Reign coach Laura Harvey, he called on U.S. politicians to tighten gun legislation.

With a 7-year-old second-grader at home, Yaxley said he couldn’t imagine getting a phone call on the other side of the country to learn that his child had been shot.

“For me, it’s just wild that these incidents keep happening and no change happens,” he said. “If it was any other walk of life — if it was the car manufacturers and the wheel kept falling off — that legislation would happen and change would happen. But when it’s gun laws, and the power that the NRA has and some of the greed that some of the politicians have, it’s hard for me to really understand.”

“It’s mind-blowing to me that this continues to happen,” Harvey said. “I’ve got a 3-year-old nephew who I just thought about immediately when I saw the news, and I’m sure everyone does that. And to think that he may go to preschool and never go home is heartbreaking. To think of all the families that are being affected every day by this craziness. It needs to change, it needs to stop. There’s no excuse. And we want that to change immediately.”

In a statement on their Twitter account Wednesday, the Reign advised fans to reach out to their U.S. representatives and encourage them to support legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Rapinoe added after the game: “I urge people to use their voice and vote or to call their representatives or to badger their representatives, or to vote them out if they don’t change this, because we’re quite literally being held hostage in this country for no reason whatsoever. The only reason that an AR-15 exists is to murder human beings. It’s not used for anything else. And it’s obviously very effective and it’s just heartbreaking.”

The Reign get a three-day break before their next game against the league-leading San Diego Wave on Sunday. The Current have four days off before hosting Racing Louisville on Monday night.

“It makes it seem pointless to come play, really,” Rapinoe said. “It’s difficult to do that. I know everybody’s doing their job and having to show up today and trying to just sort of fake their way through it, but it’s so heartbreaking.”

Pickett paused in the postgame press conference after telling reporters that she had nothing else to say.

“Sorry, one more thing,” she said. “Just better gun rules. It needs to tighten up. That’s all there is to it.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.