bob costas

Bob Costas

*On Sunday, NBC sports analyst and commentator Bob Costas weighed in on the ongoing gun control fight after the tragic murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher on Sunday Night Football.  It has already gone to the edge social media universe and back again as critics and supporters alike have flooded Facebook and Twitter.

Though Americans have been disputing the right to bear arms since the Constitution was written, Costas’ remarks brought that fight into a whole new arena, pun intended.    The speech, which spanned 1:41, was described as being exploitive of a tragic event by some , and outright “sanctimonius drek” by former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.  NBC is catching backlash for the speech as well.

This isn’t the first time the Fourth Estate swung for the fences in over editorializing, nor is it the first time Bob Costas has fired from the hip.   In May 2007, Costas went on record as stating George W. Bush’s presidency, whether you agree or not isn’t the point-he’s a SPORTS journalist,  and who could forget that creepy interview with Jerry Sandusky?  As a commentator and in-studio host Costas is very engaging.  Part of that appeal is that you just never know what ol’ Bob is going to say next.

Though Costas is taking the heat for using a sporting event as a personal microphone once again, the words he parroted were mostly those of FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock.  Jason is very familiar with the city of Kansas City and the Chief’s organization having covered the NFL for the Kansas City Star and local sports stations WHB and KCSP.  In his piece, Whitlock drew a line between this incident and the shooting death of 17 year old Jordan Davis, and one could might even say he was insinuating Trayvon Martin as well in a morbid, heart-wrenching by proxy due to the similiarities.

It’s obvious their deaths are tied together by the use of firearms, Davis and Martin are tragically kindred in that they were gunned down by white men feigning law and order.  Whitlock, like Costas, made a career for himself by speaking his mind.  He was awarded by the Scripps Howard Foundation with the National Journalism Award for commentary in 2008. The Foundation said his “ability to seamlessly integrate sports commentary with social commentary and to challenge widely held assumptions along the racial divide” is the primary reason he was given the award.   But just because one is an award-winning journalist doesn’t mean every thing he/she produces is worthy of any positive praise let alone an award.  In February Whitlock tweeted “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight” during the New York Knicks’ victory over the  Los Angeles Lakers in which Jeremy Lin scored a career high 38 points.  So, apparently he was trying to challenge widely held racial assumptions that go-round as well, huh? Silly me for not noticing.

jason whitlock

Jason Whitlock

In their race to wage war against the Second Amendment both Bob Costas and Jason Whitlock  ignored several glaring issues that have long begged for national, primetime spotlight, domestic violence and suicide among NFL players.  Addressing those issues before a largely male audience would have done a world of good and could have lead to a productive societal discourse as opposed to explosions of pointless verbosity.  Instead he chose to rattle the NRA’s cage.

In addition, Jason Whitlock unwittingly dishonored Jordan Davis, Kasandra Perkins, Trayvon Martin and all other innocent victims of gun violence by associating them with Jovan Belcher.  When you go after the Second Amendment in the wake of Jovan Belcher’s killing of Perkins, and subsequent suicide, you’re in essence saying he was a innocent victim of the Second Amendment.  If he was in fact a victim of the Second Amendment then that would mean he should be mourned by us all, as we’ve mourned Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin and now mourn Kasandra Perkins.  If he is indeed a victim of the Second Amendment then he should be remembered and celebrated because, like Davis, Martin and Perkins, he was minding his own business when the Second Amendment fired upon him with extreme prejudice.

Belcher, like the other victims, couldn’t help the circumstances that fate thrust upon them.  But we all know that’s not what happened.  Jovan Belcher is not a victim.  He shot his girlfriend 9 times before taking his own life, leaving his newborn child parentless.  Mentioning him in the same breath of any innocent victim of gun violence dishonors the memory of them all.   Sports journalists who like to speak on societal issues usually can only do so when the opportunity arises in which they can somehow tie said issue to sports or vice versa.  The actions of Belcher gave Whitlock and Costas that opportunity, and they were both off the mark.  NFL players have been notorious for incidents of domestic violence, and Belcher is the 6th NFL player to commit suicide in recent memory.  Now that was a connection worth making.  Costas missed a golden opportunity to speak against domestic violence and concussions as well.

Some of the symptoms of a concussion are emotional changability or mood swings and irritability.  One could imagine how it would be difficult for a concussed individual to resolve conflict in a rational, productive manner.  Blecher and Ms. Perkins had recently sought out team officials for counseling, according to the Kansas City Star.  Despite being an all state wrestler and football player in high school, playing collegiate football and professional football, the Kansas City Chief’s released a statement saying Belcher “did not have a long history of concussions”.  I personally find that hard to believe.  I’m not saying the Chief’s are lying, but it’s just hard to believe because he had participated in violent sports most of his teenage years and practiced a violent sport as a profession. To the naked eye strong safety and linebacker appear to be two of the top five most concussion prone positions in football.  Belcher played linebacker. But not every concussion goes diagnosed and the long term structural and physiological ramifications are still being debated by medical researchers.  Whitlock could have just gone ahead and left Jordan Davis out completely.  Even mentioning him in this context is a reach that wasn’t worth attempting.  Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were victims of racist zealots of the Second Amendment. Though I am a fan of their work, I must say with regret that these were horrible attempts at commentary on both Costas and Whitlock’s part.  Though I am a fan of their work, I must say with regret that these were horrible attempts at commentary on both Costas and Whitlock’s part.

EUR associate Ricardo Hazell is a journalist based in New York City. Contact him via: rick_hazell@yahoo.com