TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — During Thursday night’s Rays versus Yankees game, both teams chose to discuss mass shootings instead of provide game updates on their social media accounts. It was in response to two recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas within the past two weeks. The team announced a $50,000 donation to a gun control organization, as well.
In statements released to the Associated Press and other media organizations, the New York Yankees said “In lieu of gave coverage and in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Rays, we will be using our channels to offer facts about the impacts of gun violence.” the Yankees said in a statement. “The devastating events that have taken place in Uvalde, Buffalo and countless other communities across our nation are tragedies that are intolerable.”
The Yankees also tweeted a series of facts and statements on gun violence in America.
In a message to media, the Tampa Bay Rays said “We all deserve to be safe – in schools, grocery stores, places of worship, our neighborhoods, houses and America. The most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have shaken us to the core. The Tampa Bay Rays are mourning these heartbreaking tragedies that took the lives of innocent children and adults. This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb. We cannot look the other way. We all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes.”
The organization is the largest gun violence prevention organization, according to both Everytown and the Rays.
The two baseball teams also provided links to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wonder database, showing the increasing number of firearm deaths in the United States.
While the Wonder data is only current through 2020, previous releases from the CDC have already reported the number of firearm deaths, and homicides, have only risen in previous years.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began, the CDC reported that “there has been a historic increase of 35% in the firearm homicide rate, resulting in the highest firearm homicide rate in more than 25 years.”
In 2021, the CDC reported the number of children who died to gun violence, ages 5 to 14-years-old almost doubled in Florida. The increase in gun deaths come as gun purchases across the country also increased. Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed increased numbers of background checks occurred for firearm purchases, particularly in the middle of March 2021. The increase has continued over multiple years, according to FBI data.
While correlation does not equal causation, the rate of firearm homicides have increased to their highest levels in 25 years. In 2020 alone, The CDC’s Vital Signs report showed guns were used in 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides in 2020.
Statistics on active shooter incidents also showed an increase over the years. Two days before the Uvalde shooting, the FBI released its 2021 active shooter data, showing a 52.5% increase from the year before.
For the Rays, the Associated Press reported the shooting in Texas hit closer to home. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Brooks Raley is from Uvalde. The AP said he was in the Rays’ clubhouse at the Trop when he learned of the shooting.
“I did go to that school. I walked those halls, so I can imagine what they experience each day, and I’m feeling for that community,” Raley said Wednesday. “It’s small and a close-knit community, so it’s obviously tough. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do. It’s going to take time.”
Additionally, the Rays announced a $50,000 donation to Everytown for Gun Safety.
The organization was founded in 2013 by billionaire Mike Bloomberg, a former Mayor of New York City, and former Democratic presidential contender in 2020. The group was made through the merging of Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, originally founded in 2006, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded by Shannon Watts after the Sandy Hook shooting.
The donation to the Bloomberg organization isn’t the first involvement of a Bloomberg-led initiative in Florida politics. During the 2020 election, the former New York mayor made large donations to assist paying of fines and fees so former convicted felons would be able to legally vote again.
Bloomberg pledged $16 million to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. That effort drew questions from Florida officials ahead of the presidential election. Following Bloomberg’s promise to donate, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked the Florida Elections Commission to investigate. Attorney General Ashley Moody was also involved in the investigation.
If you or someone you love is battling depression or thoughts of suicide, help is always available by calling the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).