(CNN) — 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 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:
“I will gladly debate Jason Whitlock and Bob Costas on gun control, BUT we tuned in for an NFL game! Ridiculous programming decision!” Jon Kincade, a sports talk show host on 680 The Fan in Atlanta, tweeted. “Do Bob Costas and Jason Whitlock realize if an NFL linebacker wants to kill a woman he does NOT need a gun? ABSURD LOGIC.”
Big ups to Bob Costas for standing up for gun control. Hopefully someday we can actually have a conversation about it as a nation,” Robert Kahne, a policy analyst at Healthcare Strategy Group, LLC, also tweeted.
Gun control has always been divisive. 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?