Did Costas overstep his bounds with comments?
Sportscaster’s gun commentary during halftime Sunday drew rapid-fire responses.
NEw YOrK — Clearly, Bob Costas stirred up a hornet’s nest Sunday with a halftime commentary about Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend (and the mother of his child) before killing himself.
On Twitter, someone posed this question: “Who put Costas on in the middle of a football game so he could spew his one sided beliefs?” Another tweeter sharply recommended Costas “stick to football ... the more you talk, the dumber you sound.” And on and on it went.
The message resounded: Bob Costas, just shut up.
All from this: “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun,” Costas told a TV audience of more than 20 million, “he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
The reasons for the pushback were familiar when a celebrity — be it musician, sportscaster, even news anchor — bypasses what the public believes is that star’s area and expounds on issues in the larger world. But as our world grows into a place where anyone with a smartphone and an Internet connection can rant far and wide, celebrities, it seems, are still held to a higher standard — or a different one — than the rest of us.
Reaction to Costas’ remarks was swift, with much of it harsh, ranging from the scolding hosts of Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” the next morning to agitated sports fans typing tweets as they watched him on NBC’s broadcast of the Eagles-Cowboys game.
Numerous reasons were advanced for why Costas had no business weighing in on the issue of gun ownership (while others expressed their support for him).
But in an odd lapse of reasoning, many of the opinion slingers who condemned Costas blasted him for simply voicing his opinion.
With that in mind, much debate surrounding Costas’ commentary has sought to tease out a distinction between acceptable opinion and opinions that are out of bounds.
It’s been said politics and religion don’t mix. But the response to Costas’ commentary suggests that, for many within earshot, sports are even more sacred.
If Costas played politics for 90 seconds Sunday night, it was on a much reduced scale than those examples.
Yet many people “insist that an NFL broadcast is supposedly a sacrosanct and therefore apolitical space that must remain free of ‘hotbutton issues,’” noted David Sirota in a Salon column on Tuesday. “But, then, in commenting on the Kansas City Chiefs murder-suicide, Costas was merely weighing in on the biggest NFL story of the day, which is exactly what he’s paid to do and what typically happens during an NFL halftime show.”
Were Costas’ reflections on when “ugly reality intrudes upon our games” really so intrusive and outrageous?
Did his status as a professional commentator really disqualify him from sharing a thought about a tragedy that millions of his fellow Americans were talking about?
Should he really lose his job? (That was an opinion voiced on Fox News Channel.)
“What I was talking about here — and I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear to everybody — was a gun culture,” Costas said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” on Tuesday. “I never mentioned the Second Amendment. I never used the words ‘gun control.’ People inferred that.”
Keeping sports and politics in separate spheres may be less and less possible in a world that breeds opinions and crossbreeds its performers.
In his Salon column, David Sirota noted that boundaries are disappearing between sports, culture, entertainment and politics: “Modern America is a place where an actor can become president, a pro wrestler can become a governor, a football player can become a congressman, and a comedian can become a U.S. senator.”
Meanwhile, everyone is talking, with Costas only one among the chattering multitude. And that, of course, means there’s a danger of less and less time being set aside for listening.
NBC’s Bob Costas says he was talking about the ‘gun culture’ during halftime of Eagles-Cowboys game.