December 3rd, 2012
10:17 AM ET

A gun control halftime show: Should Bob Costas have spoken out on Belcher suicide?

There are a few things you can usually expect out of an NFL halftime show. A debate about gun control isn't one of them.

But Sunday wasn't a normal day in the NFL. It was two days after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and the mother of his child, before killing himself outside the front door of the Chiefs' practice facility.

It was shocking. And it was expected that this tragedy would seep through into Sunday's football coverage.

But many people were not expecting Bob Costas to make a plea for gun control.

During halftime of NBC's "Sunday Night Football," Costas blamed the nation's gun culture for what happened between Belcher and his girlfriend, remarks that set off a heated debate about whether the sportscaster should have launched into what some called a "rant" on gun control.

Here's a transcript of Costas' comments:

"Well, you know that it was coming. In the aftermath of the nearly unfathomable events in Kansas City, that most mindless of sports clichés was heard yet again: Something like this really puts it all in perspective.

Well, if so, that sort of perspective has a very short shelf life since we will inevitably hear about the perspective we have supposedly again regained the next time ugly reality intrudes upon our games. Please, those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective.

You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from a Kansas City based-writer, Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree but who today said it so well today that we may as well as quote or paraphrase from the end of his article.

‘Our current gun culture,' Whitlock wrote,  '... 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 teenaged boys bloody 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.'

In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions and their possible connections to football will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, wrote Jason Whitlock is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today." (You can read Whitlock's column here.)

Costas' remarks seemed to send the Internet into an immediate feeding frenzy.  Was it appropriate for him to talk about a political issue during a sports show? What is the right forum for this kind of discussion? Was he only saying what everyone else was already thinking? The comments kept flying:

[tweet https://twitter.com/JohnKincade/status/275435630157262848%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/JohnKincade/status/275435941114572802%5D

Costas declined to comment on his remarks.

[tweet https://twitter.com/rkahne/status/275434984544825345%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/BillJCHien/status/275485483587497984%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/audsnyder4/status/275435226983981056%5D

Gun control has always been divisive. If you remember, it had been practically impossible to get the presidential candidates to talk about the issue. "Saturday Night Live" even mocked the candidates' avoidance of it during a skit on the presidential debates.

There was equal outrage online Sunday regarding CBS' football preshow, which took five minutes before mentioning the tragedy and seemed to feature more about a Victoria's Secret fashion show and hard-hitting commentary about the color of the anchors' ties instead of a serious issue.

The main point here may be you can't please everybody. There will always be critics when it comes to an issue that sparks such intense debate. But does that mean you don't even touch it? Or did Costas' comments do exactly what he may have intended - reigniting the debate over gun control?

Opinion: Manhood, football and suicide

Let us know how you feel about Costas' remarks in the polls below and sound off in the comments. We'd love to hear your take on the issue.

soundoff (1,256 Responses)
  1. bmb88

    Most of the gun advocates on this forum are assuming that if a person really thinks they want to kill someone, they will do it no matter what deterrence is offered. However, there is inevitably a gaussian distribution of personal mentalities in terms of how easily any given person can be tipped into committing murder/suicide and what amount of deterrence is required for them to shut down those lethal impulses. For a substantial fraction of this distribution, that level of deterrence is simply in the availability of the gun.

    Another simple example: I'm at home and want some oreos. I look in the cupboard and there's a new pack, so I eat some oreos. On the other hand, I look in the cupboard and I don't have any. On some days I might go to the store and buy some oreos right then, but on a lot of days I'll say screw it, whatever. Regardless, not having the oreos in the cupboard reduces the percentage of times I go and get some from the store, simply because of availability. The same principle applies to guns and murder.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Here is where your theory loses all credibility.....If you want Oreos, you are wanting a snack. How many times have you went to get Oreos, found none and then ate broccolli or ate nothing at all? No Oreos, fine....I will have Chips Ahoys or Keebler Fudge Stripes or cake. If you want Oreos, something in the snack family will do. Same with murder. If you want to kill someone, a gun is best, but in the heat of the moment a knife, baseball bat or car will do. Busted.

      December 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      I understand the point you're trying to make, but I'd imagine the state of mind differences between fighting an urge for a cookie and fighting the urge to murder someone you've built a life with are not trivial. That appears to be the point of the discussion I've heard from the people who argue that the topic of conversation should be domestic violence, not the inanimate object that was used to carry out the violence. The example I'd cite would be Yeardley Love. She was killed by her athlete boyfriend, but a gun was not involved. The problem is the same – domestic violence.

      If someone's attraction to Oreo cookies rivals the emotional urges of a person willing to kill, I'd suggest there are other problems that need to be dealt with. Otherwise, it would appear that the Oreo example is a bit of a straw man argument.

      December 3, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Actually no it doesn't. If a person wants to kill themselves and their partner but don't have a gun they don't say "oh well", they do it some other way. Look at O.J., another confused animal from the violent sport of football. Do we need to take away all sharp objects in the world because some among us lack humanity?

      December 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • What?

      Why do you want Oreos? Because you are hungry. You can't find Oreos so then you just decide not to eat? No, you pick something else! You eat to fulfill the need. Same point here. If he wanted her dead, he would choose to no matter what. I understand your point to some degree but it is flawed ultimately.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • oosik

      The rage and anger it takes to kill someone can hardly be compared to the desire to eat cookies.
      If a starving person is offered food, regardless of what it is, I would expect they would eat.
      The same goes for someone in a fit of rage, if they are truly mad enough to want to kill, they will find whatever is available, be it a gun, knife, bat or rock.
      One just had to look at history; OJ anyone?

      December 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • bmb88

      you're missing the point. I'm not talking about one person specifically. Sure, if someone really wants to murder someone they might find another, less convenient way to do it. But that is not going to be the case for everyone. You can't generalize the all or nothing mentality of killing someone to everyone. Most people are going to be weak-kneed about it, and second guessing themselves the whole way through. I'm talking statistically, if there is more deterrence for the most convenient way to murder someone, and you extrapolate that situation thousands and thousands of times, there will be fewer murders.

      Here's perhaps a better example then the oreos: In blackjack, if the dealer has an up-card of 8 and I've got 16, basic strategy says that I should hit. Now, most of the time I'm going to bust, and I know this. But I take the hit anyway because I'm trying to maximize the percentage of times that I beat the dealer in that situation if its repeated thousands of times. The same principle applies to guns and murder. It's not about any one blackjack hand, or any one person. It's about the overall percentage of people that will be deterred from murder if the gun is not available.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • MS OF NY

      Valid points by Kevin, Chris and What? but there are two points in my view which make this weapon a lot different:
      1. the emotional and moral barrier to cross in using a gun is much less compared to other means. because it involves just aiming and pulling a tiny trigger.
      2. it is a lot less messier to the doer and takes much less strength to do away with someone.
      I agree that heat of the moment crimes may not decrease much by gun control or a ban, as even bare knuckles in the heat of the moment can be leathel. However, crimes involviong premeditation and even a little bit of self restraint can prevented with sensible gun controls.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • bmb88

      Well said MS of NY. As to the complaints about the oreo metaphor. You guys are missing the point. I'm not talking about one individual person who might just go for the knife if they can't get the gun. I'm talking about a huge population of people, and that statistically, taking away the most convenient way to kill someone will deter a certain percentage of those people enough to reduce the number of murders.

      Here's perhaps a better example: Imagine I'm playing blackjack, and the dealer has an up-card of 9 while I have 16. Basic strategy says that I hit, even though most of the time I'm going to bust. And I know that I will probably bust. But I take the hit anyway because I'm maximizing the percentage of times that I beat the dealer in that situation extrapolated over thousands of times. So even though all lot of the time a person might still go to another weapon to kill, we are maximizing the percentage of people that won't, by reducing the availability of guns.

      December 3, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nate

    Like many Americans I am all for guns until someone I know get's hurt.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Thor

    So ya think he didn't break a law when he shot himself? So ya wanna add more laws? So ya think he couldn't get a gun to shoot himself even if a law says it's illegal to own a gun? Fools!

    December 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lisa

    I normally have to withstand commercials about Viagra. Is football the right time to discuss impotency? Probably not, but the demographic that needs to be talked to is tuned in. Same with gun violence. he was simply reiterating an opinion expressed earlier by another sports journalist. Freedom of Speech is still the First Amendment, followed by number two the Right to bear Arms. It's number two for a reason folks. Even the Founding Fathers thought it was more important to express oneself through words than violence.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ifshurtew

    LOL lets not talk about how it might be the game itself that is at fault no lets not

    December 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JORGE WASHINSEN

    Should close this in respect for the families.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lisa s n.j.

    O.J. used a knife not a gun. Professional athletes seem to have anger management issues.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken Margo

      Pro athletes are no more violent than everyone else. The movie shooter in Colorado wasn't a football player.

      December 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Thats the point of the ironic quote. The analogy is that if Belcher did not have a gun, he could have used a knife....just like OJ.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff

    A gun ban in Chicago only resulted in one thing- murder capital of the United States. Banning guns doesn't work!

    December 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • mj2280

      Jeff, you cannot conclude that gun control does not work because Chicago has high crime. First, gun control is lax in many surrounding jurisdictions, which voids what little impact Chicago gun control may have. Second, Chicago has serious social issues that drive crime to higher levels beyond what other cities are experiencing. There is no one cause, just like there is no single solution. I'm not saying gun control is the answer, but it is ignorant to say it will not work because of our extremely weak past attempts at it.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john

    I can understand the NFL wanting to ban guns. Just think of how much more fun those big, strong, immature, rich guys could have at night after they disarm women and take away their only chance of defending themselves from being raped.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. slogin

    Maybe Bob should stick to what he is paid to do. His comments are out of line. He should be fined or suspended.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • sassysticks53

      lol! Just because you disagree with what Costas said doesn't mean he needs to be suspended or fined. Funny how the freedom of speech thing goes out the window when neo-cons don't like what they hear. lol!

      December 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens when sportscasters try to insert themselves into politics. Costas framed the question in a fashion that is at best, stupid and facile.

    Suppose we grant that an NFL linebacker can only kill his girlfriend with a gun (obviously crap, but whatever). What world is he talking about when he says if Belcher didn't have a gun they'd both be alive? What world is he talking about when he says that as long as guns are with us, domestic disputes will end in shootings? A world in which guns don't exist?

    Is Costas saying we should ban all private ownership of guns? Assuming away the political impossibility, how exactly does that get rid of the 300 million guns that are in the US right now?

    What kind of gun control is Costas talking about? The kind where crazy people can't get a gun? What did Belcher do beforehand that should have legally disqualified him from owning a gun? What law should have been in place? A law that says "If you plan to commit a murder-suicide, then you can't buy a gun?"

    This is not a serious debate about the reasons for, goals of, benefits of, and limitations of gun control. Costas may as well have yelled "GUN CONTROL!!!" and then pooped himself for all the good he did anybody.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • mj2280

      I completely agree, good post. His rant is actually probably more divisive than anything.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Daniel

    If Jovan would have used a knife or bat, then how would he have killed himself. Guns are the issue because its easy to take someone's life and then your own. Yes, OJ used a knife however, he's still here.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikes

      Because people simply can't commit suicide by slashing their wrists, putting a plastic bag over their head, sitting in a running car in a closed garage, taking poison, taking an OD of drugs, hanging themselves, jumping off a bridge, walking in front of a bus, etc.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      He drove his car to the practice facility after he killed his wife. It's not too hard (or very uncommon for someone to do) to just swerve off into a bridge post and bam! Suicide without, gasp, a gun.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Exactly

      I hope that you are never able to own or purchase a firearm...

      December 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Matt

    Costas is entitled to his opinion, just like the Chick-Fil-A executive and anyone else who has (or hasn't) come under fire for their controversial opinions being expressed in public. Similarly, since NBC is not a public entity but actually a corporation of sorts, they are free to support or denounce the opinions of theory employees as they wish.

    I personally feel that Costas' remarks were ignorant and uninformed, but I recognize his right to say them just like my right to type this, or to criticize my elected leaders in a public forum. Clearly NBC and its various affiliates harbor a "left leaning" bias. However, since they are not public entities they are entitled to do so.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Norm

    If the NRA had their way we would all have access to nuclear weapons. They're just looking out for our freedom, you know.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Thats the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Gain some common sense and then come back.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mikes

    Bob's right, we need gun control. Let's start by taking away all weapons from those whose purpose and training is to kill with them – the military. Then we'll take them from the police. After you've done that, I'll consider giving up mine.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • mj2280

      Well mikes, since the military and police are trained to use their firearms and are held accountable for that use. I would much rather them have a firearm then some random schmuck like yourself.

      December 3, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikes

      "Held accountable?" Surely you jest. The US military is responsible for more than 1,000,000 deaths over the past 10 years, in undeclared and illegal "wars." Where is this "accountability" of which you speak?

      December 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
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