Gun violence in the sports world
Poor gun control and machismo culture leads to tragedies
Todd Colin Vaughan
On Dec. 2, 2012 when most National Football League fans were settling into their regular Sunday Night Football experience expecting the melodic voices of the talking heads in sports punditry, they were instead treated on this particular night to something much different.
On that Sunday, NBC broadcaster Bob Costas chose to speak out against gun violence in the United States, following the murder-suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher of himself and his girlfriend.
Costas summed up his viewpoint by quoting writer Jason Whitlock.
“In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions and their possible connections to football will be analyzed. Who knows? But here… is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
A strong statement made during a time segment usually reserved for how team flights arrived late, or whether Peyton Manning’s neck surgery went well.
The right-wing news machine immediately attacked Costas, accusing the broadcaster of choosing the wrong pulpit for his views on gun violence.
Ted Nugent of the Washinton Times said that “Bob Costas, blamed the murder-suicide on easy access to guns. He lives in a strange fairyland of ignorance and denial.”
What Costas’ accusers like Nugent fail to realize is that gun violence is an issue that affects all of us; guns are not solely a civic or political conversation.
By addressing the ridiculous culture of violence created by these weapons in all areas they affect — including sport — Costas has made a bold and brave move that broadcasters and journalists should take to heart no matter what type of news they’re responsible for.
If you are still not buying that this belongs in sports reporting, then perhaps the countless examples of gun violence in sports will help alter your perception.
On Dec. 24, 2009, the NBA’s Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton brandished firearms at one another following a dispute over a gambling debt. The two point guards played for the Washington Wizards, which ironically changed its name from the Baltimore Bullets in the 90s over the city’s bad gun reputation.
An originally silly argument was compounded dangerously because both players owned firearms. In any rational society this argument could have been solved with words but these two young men chose differently, not considering the potentially fatal results. They were lucky. Others were not.
No one in the sports world spoke up about this incident beyond suspensions and shock.
On Feb. 14, 2002, former NBA star Jayson Williams shot and killed his limo driver when he brought the man and several of his friends into his home to see his gun collection.
He failed to check the safety of his 12-gauge shotgun and shot the man in the chest. He then tried to cover up the accidental shooting, leading to an eight year legal battle that ended with Williams sentenced to five years for aggravated assault.
The machismo culture of sport combined with poor gun control lead to a preventable murder of a limousine driver.
Once again no one spoke up. Our culture feels sorry for the victims of these crimes but does nothing to prevent the easy access to the deadly weapons responsible for them.
These incidents aren’t related to sport. They are related to the societal problem of glorified gun culture that is celebrated by people who think the American second amendment was about protecting property. It wasn’t, by the way — it was about arming 18th century militias so white males wouldn’t have to pay taxes.
The murder-suicide committed by Jovan Belcher and all other gun crimes committed by professional athletes are not isolated to themselves. They are systemically connected to the tragedies of Newtown, Connecticut, Columbine, Colorado and all the other 14,159 (in 2010) gun homicides committed in the USA every year.
Gun violence is not exclusive to the poor, the mentally ill, the white, the black, the far-right-wing conservatives claiming that hunting is best done with Armalite AR-16 assault rifles or any other single group.
It is something that has infected the fabric of all society, and for a seemingly normal individual like Costas to stand up and say what needs to be said is an example that we all should follow.
What Costas stated that day is a fact. To paraphrase, people don’t die from guns if people don’t own them. We must, throughout the whole world, monitor and control civilian access to firearms.
If gun violence affects your life — which it does for all of us — then you must speak out about it, no matter the pulpit used.