The sports world reacted strongly Sunday to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Baseball teams across the country held moments of silence after a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday. At least 50 people were killed and the gunman died in a gunfight with SWAT officers, according to police.
“We begin with our thoughts and prayers for the Orlando community and all of those affected by the tragic events this early morning,” Father Geoff Rose of St Francis de Sales High School said Sunday at NASCAR’s race in Michigan.
Many prominent athletes took to social media to express themselves in the wake of the incident.
Shaquille O’Neal, who began his storied career with the Orlando Magic and is the most prominent star to ever play in the city, tweeted “My thoughts & prayers go out to my Orlando LGBT community brothers and sister during this senseless act of violence. Love is Love!”
Current Magic guard Shabazz Napier also chimed in, tweeting “What has to plague the mind of any person to commit such heinous crimes? Life is so beautiful but we always tear it apart. #PrayforOrlando.”
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in NFL history, wrote a short essay on Instagram, stating in part that “50 people lost their lives because of a hateful coward with a gun. Let this hateful act of terror of the #LGBTQ community be a wake up call for America. Men and women of all races, ages, and sexual orientation are being slaughtered because of hate crimes. How many more must die from a hate crime? We need to create awareness to ALL that hate is not the foundation of our nation. Friends DO NOT let this coward put fear into your hearts!!!”
WNBA star Brittney Griner, also using the hashtag #prayfororlando, posted a picture of five hearts in the colors of the LGBT flag, with a red heart split in half.
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, asked about the suspension of Warriors forward Draymond Green for Game 5 of the NBA Finals because of a flagrant foul he committed against James in Game 4, began his answer by instead offering condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the shooting.
“I think it’s another hit for us as Americans and what we have to deal with in our world today, and it definitely puts things in perspective on basketball. For myself, it’s just a small matter of what reality really is.”