The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees baseball teams took the unusual step on Thursday to have their Twitter accounts airing facts about gun violence following the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.
Instead of posting information about throwing performance or past home run distances, both teams’ Twitter feeds featured facts about gun violence during their game in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Rays communications staff members led the fact-finding and fact-checking effort, an initiative assisted by Yankees vice president of communications Jason Zillo, who was in St. Petersburg for the four-game series, with other members of the Yankees. communications team. Each fact was followed by a quote.
“There are things that are bigger than baseball,” Mr. Zillo said. “It’s great that we can use our platform to share facts that are important to everyone, no matter who you root for or if you’re a sports fan.”
The Yankees Twitter account has 3.6 million followers. The Rays have about 650,000. The teams also posted the facts on their Instagram stories. The Yankees have 2.9 million followers on this platform, while the Rays have 430,000.
An article noted that firearms were the leading cause of death for American children and adolescents in 2020, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another pointed out that about 12 veterans a day die by suicide by firearm, according to a study published by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Rays, whose team colors are blue and white, changed their Twitter account background banner to orange, which is frequently used for gun violence awareness and prevention efforts. with a banner reading “End Gun Violence.” Brooks Raley, a Rays pitcher, attended the school in Uvalde where the shooting took place.
The Rays said they donated $50,000 to Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that promotes gun violence prevention, and said they work with the group to “amplify the facts about gun violence in America.” “.
“The most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have shaken us to the core,” the Rays said in a statement on their feed. “The Tampa Bay Rays mourn the heartbreaking tragedies that have claimed the lives of innocent children and adults.”
Twenty-one people, including 19 children, were killed by a gunman at a primary school in Uvalde on Tuesday. It came less than two weeks after a gunman in Buffalo killed 10 people in a supermarket in a racist attack.
Zillo said the Yankees would expand their anti-gun violence efforts during their next homestand, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday, specifically to address gun violence in the Bronx, where the team plays.
“As citizens of the world, it’s difficult to deal with these shootings and get back to a normal routine,” Zillo added in a text message. “Overnight, we wanted to reflect and bring attention to stats that are so much more important and powerful than batting average.”
An hour after the Yankees first announced they would be posting about gun violence rather than game details, the article had more than 70,000 likes, which Zillo said was the one of their highest rates for all messages.
At least one other professional sports league has tried to use its weight to draw attention to gun violence. In 2015, NBA stars, with the league’s backing, appeared in ads sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety, after a spate of shootings.
The Yankees have taken steps to address mass shootings in the past, led by then-owner George Steinbrenner, the patriarch of the family that still owns the team, which is led by his son, Hal Steinbrenner . In 2007, the Steinbrenners donated $1 million to a Virginia Tech University memorial fund after a mass shooting there, and the following year the Yankees played an exhibition game on campus. from the school in Blacksburg, Virginia.