Professional Athletes Who Survived Gun Violence Share Stories of Pain — and Purpose

Ahead of National Gun Violence Survivors Week, Feb. 1-7, PEOPLE and Everytown for Gun Safety partnered for a virtual roundtable discussion

Nearly 40,000 Americans are killed by guns every year and approximately 85,000 more are shot and wounded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the impact of gun violence is even more wide-reaching.

"[Gun violence] is destroying families. It needs to change," says Stedman Bailey, a former NFL player whose career was cut short after he was shot twice in the head in 2015. "If we're not using our platform and sharing our stories, we're doing a disservice to the millions of other people who are going through the same thing that don't have a platform, they don't have a voice."

On Jan. 19, four professional athletes — Devereaux Peters, a now-retired WNBA forward; DeAndre' Bembry, a guard for the NBA's Toronto Raptors; Diontae Spencer, a wide receiver for the NFL's Denver Broncos and Bailey, former wide receiver for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams — sat down for an intimate conversation about their personal experiences with gun violence and how it changed their lives.

For more on how a group of athletes survived gun violence and now work to combat it, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

The roundtable event, in partnership with PEOPLE and the nonprofit advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety, brought the athletes together ahead of National Gun Violence Survivors Week, Feb. 1-7. The athletes are all members of the Everytown Athletic Council, whose members highlight the gun violence crisis, often with very personal stories.

(Watch the full People Features: Gun Violence Survivor Athletes panel above, or streaming now on The discussion will also be featured on tonight's episode of PEOPLE: (The TV Show!).)

"As athletes, we're blessed to have a platform," says Peters, a co-founder of the Council, whose cousin was shot to death in 2013. "It's empowering to know you're not alone."

gun violence roundtable 2021
Top row from left: Elaine Aradillas, Devereaux Peters, Diontae Spencer. Bottom row from left: Stedman Bailey, DeAndre Bembry.

It's a sentiment the whole group shares. The athletes are committed to giving their time in an effort to educate people and curb gun violence.

"Kids are losing their lives to gun violence," says Spencer, whose father was killed during a robbery in 2010. "What gives me hope is talking about my situation, letting these kids know where I'm from, what I went through, what I'm going through, and what I'm doing now to help the problem."

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