The extreme right in the United States has become increasingly visible, loud, and emboldened in the wake of the candidacy and election of President Donald Trump. There have been incidents of violence, increased reports of hate symbols, and terrorist plots by white supremacists and other members of hate groups since the election, but nothing like what was seen in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
There, neo-Nazis, members of the KKK, white nationalists, and self-identified members of the alt-right marched carrying torches and chanting Antisemitic slogans on the University of Virginia campus to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. The next day, a white nationalist drove a car into a crowd of people demonstrating against the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, injuring 19 people and killing an anti-racist activist named Heather Heyer.
A week after the violence, USMNT and Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley gave his thoughts about it to John Molinaro of Sportsnet, and you can read the full interview here. As the article points out, Bradley has roots in the area. His cousin is a member of the University of Virginia Cavaliers men’s soccer team, his father Bob was Bruce Arena’s assistant there, and his parents met in Charlottesville.
Bradley discussed his links to the city and school, telling Molinaro:
“Charlottesville is a place that means a lot to my family. My mom [attended school] there. My dad coached there. My parents met there. My cousin goes there now. Growing up, I can remember driving down to watch my dad’s Princeton team play against UVA in Charlottesville. I can remember going to the UVA soccer camp in the summer. It’s a beautiful little town and to see everything that went on there for a few days was just terrible. It broke my heart.”
Bradley talked about speaking out on issues important to him in the face of criticism that athletes should stay out of politics, telling Sportsnet:
“I think it’s more than just athletes [who need to speak up]. It’s also the responsibility for everybody as citizens, as human beings to stand up for what’s right, to not be afraid to voice your opinion, to not be afraid to say when something is wrong. As athletes with the platform we have, with the role that we play in society, especially with the younger generation, it’s very important that we understand what’s going on, that we’re well informed and not be afraid to let our voices be heard.”
He went on to discuss the lessons that he has learned as his political statements have become more sought after and discussed. Bradley spoke about the importance of having a voice and using it as a responsible citizen, saying:
“For me, one of the biggest takeaways over the last year in [the United States] is how important it is that every person plays a part in what goes on. You have to have people – young and old, from all different backgrounds – who are ready to take an active role in our society and what goes on. Only then do you have the ability to truly hold people accountable and making sure that things are moving forward in the right way.”
The USMNT captain further detailed the environment he tries to create as a parent. For Bradley, who takes inspiration from his mother and father, leading by example is something that he strives for. He also hopes that people don’t only see some athlete speaking out about hateful acts or politics, but also that he is a father trying to teach his children. Bradley also talked about how he explains news involving hate crimes and violence to his children. Though they are young, he and his wife take time to teach lessons of respect loving those who are different.
“One of the things that my parents always did with me, even when I was young, they spoke to me in real ways. They had honest conversations with me. They found a great balance, but they didn’t talk to me like I was five years old. That’s certainly something for me as a parent that I think about a lot,” Bradley offered.
“There’s no role more important than mine as a father, and how I teach my kids, not just by what I say but how I act, how I handle myself in situations, is the most important thing that I’ll do. The more people understand that, the better off that we’ll be in the future.”
The midfielder has never been shy about speaking out on issues of injustice or controversial political topics. He has spoken out recently about the “Muslim Ban” and wore a rainbow armband to pay respect to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. With this recent interview, Bradley has continued to show that he isn’t going to avoid giving his thoughts on issues facing his country anytime soon.