EUGENE, Ore. — While Justin Gatlin tried to focus on his sprint races at the U..S. Olympics track and field trials, the headlines tinged with violence and tragedy have been unavoidable — videos of killings involving police, and constant updates about a sniper in Dallas who fatally shot five officers.

After winning the men’s 200-meter final Saturday night, Gatlin had a chance to address the crowd at Hayward Field and he had one message: love someone.

“It’s a lot been going on in America the past couple of days,” the 34-year old sprinter explained later. “It’s sad it happens around the Fourth of July when we should all be proud to be Americans. I just told everyone in the stadium, I challenged them: I said love someone.

“Leave the stadium — because there’s so much love in the stadium the past couple of days — take that love with you and give it to somebody you’ve never loved before. Just go up to them and say, ‘I love you for being an American.’

Gatlin won both the 100- and 200-races at these trials and hopes to dethrone Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, the world record-holder in both events, in Rio. His career plagued by a pair of high-profile doping violations, Gatlin has been among the most visible U.S. sprinters since he won gold at the 2004 Games, just 22 years old at the time.

“When we’re overseas, sometimes you don’t see an American flag,” he said, “except maybe sometimes you see one American flag. And those people holding an American flag are so proud to be Americans. I wanted everybody to understand when we go to down to Rio, we represent the United States of America and we want to represent with pride. It’s just so sad to see everything happening right now. I just want everybody to be happy.”