The tragedy surrounding Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide overshadowed this week’s NFL games, and during NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast, Bob Costas connected the events with gun control practices in the United States.
CNN reported that early on Saturday morning, Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend then took his own life at the Chiefs practice facility in front of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli, among others.
The news shocked sports fans and drew a range of responses. During the Sunday Night Football halftime show, Costas firmly stated his agreement with Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock and quoted an article Whitlock wrote on the subject.
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.
In the coming days, Belcher's actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn't possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.
That is the message I wish Chiefs players, professional athletes and all of us would focus on Sunday and moving forward. 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.
As Jay Busbee of Yahoo! Sports noted, “Social media and comment sections across the Internet boiled over on Sunday night with vitriol both against Costas for his views, and against NBC for permitting any kind of political commentary on its broadcast.”
Costas has been in sports broadcasting for more than three decades and has built a reputation as one of the most intelligent and respected people in the business. He does not have a track record of taking stances that draw negative backlashes.
His statements, which were viewed as distasteful by many viewers (as Busby notes), were certainly surprising to those who have followed his career.
The remarks stoked the fire of an already contentious topic of debate, and it also brought up questions about the appropriateness of political commentary during a sports broadcast. Costas’ decision to quote Whitlock was certainly controversial and will continue to be discussed going forward.