MLB fans looking to keep up with the game Thursday night between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays got quite the surprise when they logged on to Twitter. Instead of stats and play-by-plays, the two teams instead used their accounts to tweet out facts on gun violence. In nearly identical statements posted to their Twitter feeds before the game, the Yanks and Rays called the recent massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde "devastating" and "intolerable." Then they set to work sharing information about how firearms impact our society, including on the percentage of Americans who've experienced gun violence, how many veterans die of suicide by gun each year, and how firearms were the leading cause of death in 2020 for US kids and teens.
The New York Times reports that the comms team for the Rays spearheaded the effort, with an assist by Yankees communications exec Jason Zillo. "There are things that are bigger than baseball," Zillo says. "It's good that we can use our platform to share facts that are important to everyone, no matter whom you root for, or whether you are a sports fan at all." He adds that the initial Yankees tweet announcing the teams' intentions for the night received more than 70,000 likes, among the most ever received on the team's account. NBC News notes the tweetstorms came on the heels of a Miami Heat announcer making a "strikingly strong" statement about gun violence during Wednesday's Heat-Celtics game.
The Rays—whose pitcher Brooks Raley attended the Uvalde elementary school where this week's mass shooting took place—went a step further on their Twitter account, changing their background photo to a bright orange graphic that reads "End Gun Violence" and pinning a tweet that announced a $50,000 donation to the Everytown for Gun Safety nonprofit. "This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb. We cannot look the other way," the post read. "We all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes. ... [W]orking together, we can make an impact." For anyone who's wondering about the baseball part of the night, the Yankees beat the Rays, 7-2. (Read more New York Yankees stories.)