Dave Roberts looked at the flag in the left field, flapping at half-staff. He looked at the red, white and blue stadium around him, the one situated just a mile south of the U.S. Capitol building.
Then, sitting in the visitors dugout at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon, the Dodgers manager looked at nothing in particular, his stoic gaze accompanied by a shaken voice and anguished expression.
A day after 19 children and two teachers were killed by a gunman at a Texas elementary school, Roberts didn’t want to talk about baseball prior to his team’s series finale against the Washington Nationals.
His heart was heavy. His emotions were swirling. And he was struggling to cope with the latest gun-related tragedy to strike the country.
“Something needs to be done,” Roberts said. “Like everyone has said, enough is enough. When is enough, enough?”
For almost 10 minutes during his pregame scrum with reporters, Roberts talked at length about the Texas school shooting. About the need for more gun control laws in America. About how people with a platform like his, even in sports, have to help clamor for change.
“To see that flag at half-mast in our nation’s capitol, it’s just heartbreaking,” Roberts said.
He added: “I love this country as much as anyone. But the people who are supposed to lead our country are supposed to take care of our walls first. That’s both sides of the aisle. If you have Americans killing Americans, I just don’t think they’re doing the job they’re called to do, to be quite frank. And we just can’t be afraid to hold people to a higher standard of accountability.”
When word of the shooting began to circulate on Tuesday, the Dodgers were about to take the field for their second game of this week’s three-game series against the Nationals. Roberts didn’t learn of the news until shortly before first pitch. A moment of silence was also held before the game.
“It buckled me,” Roberts said.
“I apologize for not just talking about Dodger baseball, but who’s to say that something can’t happen at a ballpark?”
— Dodgers manager Dave Roberts
Unlike the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14 that left 10 people dead, an event Roberts said he was following up to the minute, Tuesday’s massacre in Texas “caught me off guard.”
“But looking back at the way things have been,” Roberts added, “I guess I shouldn’t have been off guard. I’m just more sickened by it.”
Roberts hasn’t been the only figure in sports speaking out over the last 24 hours.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr gave an impassioned speech during a news conference prior to his team’s Western Conference Finals game in Dallas on Tuesday night — sentiments Roberts referenced on Wednesday.
Star athletes across the American sports landscape, including the Lakers’ LeBron James, took to social media to voice their sadness, anger and frustration.
Moments after he hit two home runs in the Dodgers’ victory on Tuesday night, former MVP outfielder Mookie Betts posted a statement on Twitter.
“As a parent, I’m heartbroken!” part of Betts’ tweet read. “Gun Laws must be changed. Mental Illness is real! This is not ok.”
Roberts was blunt about the need for legislative changes, as well.
He wondered why bills proposing universal background checks in order to carry an automatic weapon haven’t been passed in Congress. He called for more resources to help people battling mental illness. Most of all, he put the onus on lawmakers to take action.
“That’s their job, that’s what they signed up for,” Roberts said. “It shouldn’t be about self-preservation, self-fulfillment. It should be about, right is right, and what protects American citizens. Namely, kids. There’s no other spin.”
Roberts said he was weighing whether or not to address his players about the situation prior to Wednesday’s game, but noted they’ve been having conversations among themselves and their families already.
“We all have heavy hearts,” he said.
As Roberts fielded a few final questions, his gaze continued to dart about. His voice remained gravelly and low. On several occasions, he sorrowfully shook his head.
“I apologize for not just talking about Dodger baseball, but who’s to say that something can’t happen at a ballpark?” he asked. “We gotta all be careful and we have to be proactive and do what is right. Right is right.”
On Wednesday, he saw no choice but to address everything he felt was wrong.