Bob Costas, Jovan Belcher, and the Fear of Talking About Gun Control
In case you missed it, during the second half of December 2nd's Eagles-Cowboys game, NBC ran a story about the Kansas City Chiefs' victory over the Carolina Panthers and how the team had dealt with the suicide of their teammate Jovan Belcher after murdering Kasandra Perkins, his 22 year old girlfriend and mother of his baby daughter. Bob Costas then offered his opinion that had Belcher not had access to a handgun, both he and Kasandra might still be alive.
The remark stirred up more passions than the actual news of the murder-suicide. Almost immediately Fox News began a debate as to whether or not NBC should fire Costas. (Yeah, right, like NBC would drop Costas because Fox News was pissed.)
A Twitter storm ensued. Herman Cain tweeted: "You tune in for a football game and end up listening to Bob Costas spewing sanctimonious dreck." (I wonder who told Herman what sanctimonious means.) Ted Nugent, who is generally referred to in these kind of controversies as a rock star -- though in fact he was never a star and is even further from being one now -- jumped in: "Hey, Bob Costas, we all kno [sic] o that obesity is a direct result of a proliferation of spoons and forks, Get a clue." (Nugent offered no clue as to what spoons and forks had to do with gun violence.)
Costas' comments were mild and reasoned, and in fact represented the views of the overwhelming number of Americans. But we'll get to that in a moment. On Thursday night, Costas guested on Bill O'Reilly's show and pointed out that he was "Not looking to repeal the Second Amendment ... I didn't call for any specific prohibition on guns. Never used the words 'gun control.' " His only regret, he said, was that his brief comments "left it open for too much miscommunication."
He was not the least bit afraid, he said, "to talk about the gun culture, to talk about domestic violence. I thought it was self-evident that this was a domestic violence case." He admitted that he used the occasions "talk about the effects that football and the culture of football have on many of the people who play it. I've done it before and I'll do it again. I will look for places where there's more time to do it."
Good for you, Bob. That such rational comments like these could stir up such a heated storm of reaction illustrates how nutsy the gun culture has become. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, told USA Today that "The one thing missing in that equation" -- meaning that Jovan and Kasandra might be alive if he hadn't had access to a gun -- "is that a woman owning a gun could have saved her life from that murderer." Hey, now, there's a great idea -- his and her gun sets for couples so they can shoot it out on even terms when a domestic argument goes bad.
Of course, with twice as many bullets flying around, baby Zoey and Perkins' mother might have been killed, too. But that's a small price to pay to preserve someone's right to bear arms. Maybe the baby and the grandmother should have been packing, too?
I find it bizarre that any conservative would question a journalist's right to talk about a shooting incident involving a football player when so many conservatives have politicized nearly every other imaginable issue. I don't recall them criticizing Tim Tebow for bringing issues of religion into football; they heartily approved that. I don't recall Herman Cain complaining that he tuned in to watch a football game but was offended when Tebow took a knee on the field. Nor, I would add, should he have been offended.
And if Costas' comments weren't pertinent to the world of sports, then why are so many sportswriters going nuts? Here are some remarks from a writer named Nate Winkler on a website called ColdHardFootballFacts.com:
In his weekly Mr. Rogers moment before the second half kickoff, Costas decided to use his soapbox to give us his viewpoints on gun control ... Costs decided on what 'perspective' really is, although he himself has never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from. Unable to sustain his own voice, Costas used Kansas city's Jason Whitlock's article as shield to his comments, but echoing he sentiment that gun control laws should be stricter in this country and travesties like this would be prevented
Saying as much is asking to blaming McDonald's, or forks for that matter, for the obesity problem in the United States. The second amendment is sacred among those who have defended the Constitution like myself and often disregarded by those like Costas ... Costas is a sportscaster and should have avoided the subject altogether. Many people tune into football games for the very same reason eh game went on in Kansas City. To forget about life's real problems for a moment and enjoy the game for what it is.
ColdHardFootballFacts is a site which encourages this kind of beer-blown bluster, especially to those who, such as Winkler, tend to write at the top of their lungs. As Samuel L. Jackson says in Pulp Fiction, allow me to retort.
First, Costas made no mention at all of gun control. What he said was that if Belcher had not had easy access to a gun, he and Kasandra might not be dead. And he was right: there's a very good chance that they would not have died. Second, and I know this is an odd question to ask, but Winkler is the one who raised it: how exactly does he know that Bob Costas "never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from?' Just wondering.
Third, Costas most certainly did not use Jason Whitlock's article as a "shield." He quoted from it on the air because Whitlock is a superb writer.
Fourth, ever notice how right wingers use the dame handful of phrases? What in hell does McDonald's or forks have to do with this issue? (I do remember a couple of decades back when McDonald's changed their hot drink spoons because they were being use for another activity.)
Fifth, the reason that the Knasas City Chiefs played football on Sunday was not to give people like Winkler a way to "forget about life's real problems." It was because the NFL team owners make a huge amount of money from broadcasting games.
Finally, we get the attitude of the genuine bully. "The second amendment is sacred among those who have defended the Constitution , like myself, and often disregarded by those like Costas." Who does Winkler think he is to say that Costas disregards the Second Amendment? And what does he mean by "those like Costas"? Sportscasters? Short people? And from what privileged standpoint does Winkler argue that the Constitution is any more sacred to him than to those who disagree with his interpretation of it?
Are "those like Costas" Americans who have made their feelings known to pollsters? If so, NRA people had better take notice. A CNN poll in August indicated that 76% of Americans believe that "some" restriction on guns is needed. Only 13% said no restrictions, and only 10% thought that guns should be illegal.
On July 24, Reuters reported on a poll which found that gun owners, even NRA members, backed some restriction: "The survey, conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz for the groups Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was carried out in May but was released on Tuesday in the aftermath of the Colorado movie theater shootings that killed 12 people last week ...Luntz said he polled 945 gun owners nationwide - half of whom were gun owners who were current or former members of the NRA ... 74% of the current and former NRA members and 87% of the other gun owners supported criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun. 79% of current and former NRA members and 805 of the other gun owners supported requiring gun retailers to perform a background checks on all employees to ensure they are not felons.
Poll respondents also favored eligibility requirements for obtaining concealed weapons permits. With 63% of current and former NRA members and 74% of the other gun owners agreeing that applicants must be at least 21 years old."
Or stated simply, the people in this country who want gun control far outnumbers the ones who don't. The problem is that they're not organized. Or I should say we're not organized.
I don't know how much I am "like Costas," so let me put my cards on the table. I am the proud owner of several guns, and I happily subscribe to the idea that gun control is needed in this country, badly. I have no criminal record or mental health problems that would interfere with my owning guns. If you do, that's your problem. And I'm well aware, as many gun owners pretend not to be, that there's huge distinction between gun control and gun abolition.
I know another dirty secret, too: the real argument for gun control isn't that it will keep guns out of criminals' hands but that it will keep people alive who might normally succumb to depression and reach for a gun instead of picking up a phone for help. It would also keep a great number of people alive who are the victims of domestic violence. Was Jovan Belcher emotionally ill? We'll never know the answer to that now, will we? I'm not using Jason Whitlock as a "shield,": but I will let him have the last word because he states this better than I can. From his Dec 3rd column:
Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead ... Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it .
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.
- We Found the Most Fascinating (and Depressing) Site on the Internet
Sat., Nov. 28, 8:00pm
Sun., Nov. 29, 9:45am
Sun., Nov. 29, 10:00am
Sun., Nov. 29, 12:00pm
- This Brooklyn Local is Making a Web Series about Growing Weed
- New York City's Food Pantries Are Struggling to Keep Up With a Growing Demand For Meals