In the aftermath of the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, the Miami Heat used a pre-game moment to urge fans to contact U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Florida Republicans, “demanding their support for common sense gun laws” — and telling them they can “make change at the ballot box.”
Rubio, who is up for re-election this fall, didn’t like it.
He took to Twitter on Thursday, lambasting the NBA for “politicizing a horrific tragedy in America.”
The push for gun laws came from the arena announcer before the start of Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference Finals game, immediately after a moment of silence in honor of the 19 children and two teachers who were killed Tuesday at Robb Elementary School. It was broadcast to a national cable TV audience on ESPN.
“The Heat urges you to contact your state senators by calling 202-224-3121 to leave a message demanding their support for common sense gun laws. You can also make change at the ballot box. Visit heat.com/vote to register and let your voice be heard this fall,” the statement said. Many fans could be heard cheering as the announcement was made.
Rubio argued that the NBA doesn’t have the moral authority to make such judgments because the league has been attempting to grow the market for basketball in China, where Uyghur Muslims are subject to widespread repression, including imprisonment and holding them involuntarily in “re-education” camps.
“The @NBA doesn’t like to talk about the billions they make from a China that enslaves Uyghur Muslims and harvests their organs. But they have no problem politicizing a horrific tragedy in America,” Rubio said in his tweet.
The gun control message actually came from the Heat — not the NBA or the Celtics.
The earlier message of mourning was from all three:
“The Heat organization, the Boston Celtics and the NBA family also mourn those who lost their lives in the senseless shooting that took place yesterday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and friends and the entire Robb Elementary School and Uvalde community. Our hope is that the families, friends, coworkers and loved ones of all of those impacted by this tragedy will find the comfort and strength they need as they carry on in honor of those whose lives were lost. We now ask that you join us in a moment of silence for those no longer with us.”
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Democrats have their say
Rubio is the one politicizing the issue, said former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, now a senior adviser for Giffords, the anti-gun violence group founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt.
“The only ones politicizing the discussion and debate around gun violence are the politicians who are refusing to do anything about it,” Mucarsel-Powell said in an online news conference organized by the Florida Democratic Party.
She said Rubio would pay a political price for opposition to proposals such as universal background checks for gun buyers.
“This issue will determine the 2022 election. Mark my words. I know what I’m talking about,” said Mucarsel-Powell, who served one term in Congress from a Miami-Dade County based district. She lost her campaign for re-election in 2020.
“After the horrific shootings of the Sandy Hook Elementary and the Pulse nightclub, Senator Rubio chose outrage over any source of political courage. He has voted repeatedly against crucial legislation that would save the lives of our children. We’ve seen time and time again how Marco Rubio has stood on the NRA and the gun lobby and not on the side of parents and kids that have been pleading with him to do something,” Mucarsel-Powell said.
During the same news conference, Mary Ann Ruiz, chairwoman of the Ruth’s List Miami organization, said Rubio’s Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, a former police chief, would do a better job.
“Either we vote for the guy who says to our faces: ‘I’m not doing anything. I never will. Children and teachers will keep dying. Live with it.’ Or we hold on to a sliver of hope and vote for someone new,” Ruiz said.
Ruth’s List is a political organization that helps female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.
Rubio says more
Appearing Wednesday evening on the Fox News show “Jesse Watters Primetime,” Rubio said it’s essential to focus not as much on how a mass shooting occurred but why someone committed such a heinous act.
“It’s not about the ‘how’ necessarily but the ‘why’ in the sense that these are people that want to harm people on a mass scale, and the instruments they use, in many cases, are guns. But that sentiment of wanting to hurt people is the one we need to really focus on.”
He said priority should be placed on efforts to conduct risk assessments that could identify people who might commit a mass shooting.
“It has to be multidisciplinary. You have to have input from all kinds of places. So it might be a law enforcement interaction combined with what a school counselor or teacher is seeing, combined with what a family member or a parent is reporting. And then all of these things come into a central location….. It’s a really useful tool, and it’s one that we should use more.”
Rubio warned that “there’s someone out there right now that’s going to be the next school shooter, because they’re watching this stuff on TV, and it’s going to inspire them to act. It’s a terrible thing.”
Demings weighs in
At a Pembroke Pines rally Wednesday evening, Demings lamented the Texas massacre — and faulted Rubio on the gun issue.
“I’m broken at what happened,” Demings said. “When we, yet again, as the greatest nation in the world, watched 19 children and two adults be gunned down, doggone it, Broward County, we can do better than that.”
She said “the most powerful nation in the world” that has “the most powerful and most capable military in the world” has the ability to “keep innocent people from getting gunned down.”
“Your senior senator, Marco Rubio, has only offered thoughts and prayers. Nothing wrong with thoughts and prayers but faith without works is dead. Get up off your knees and do something about it,” Demings said.