Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Guns: An NFL Case Study

It’s been rough to be a part of the NFL over the past two weeks. Three people who work for professional football teams have lost their lives; two players and a grounds crew member. Teams who have lost members of their organization the day before a game, however, are 3-0 this season.

Hopefully there are no more sacrificial lambs this season.

The deaths were all dramatic: suicide by hanging, murder-suicide by gun shots and killed as a passenger in a single-vehicle drunk driving wreck.

Unfortunately, Brownskeeper Willy (cause he worked for Cleveland, so why not?) gets barely any attention because he wasn’t a player. Meanwhile, Jovan Belcher, the Kansas City linebacker who shot his girlfriend and mother of his 3-month old baby, then drove to the practice facility and shot himself, is getting a lot of attention. Of course, right? It’s a horrible act that happens to be captivating in its astonishment.

Bob Costas took some time during halftime of the Sunday Night Football game last week to make an awkward speech. Costas spends the first thirty-seconds groping around the topic of death causing perspective on life and sports, before going on to mention that while he does not always agree with sportswriter Jason Whitlock, he’ll go ahead and quote Whitlock’s thoughts about handguns being more of a temptation to escalate violence than for protection.

The whole thing was a little weird. Here’s Bob Costas kind-of taking a big stance. If you want to go ahead and say, “can we please actually talk about gun violence?” or “doesn’t this make you wonder about NFL head injuries, the culture of the players and its connection to guns?” – awesome! Let’s talk about this stuff!

But being all, “this other guy says some interesting stuff” is a weak way to try to make a point. And with guns, certainly, if you’re not strong, it’s not going to get the best response. Costas was criticized, so he went to Bill O’Reilly to actually talk about how we should talk about domestic violence, the culture in the NFL in general, and guns, steroids and alcohol.

Naturally, Fox News jumped on the topic… I mean, Costas mentioned guns in the presence of Fox, so they must talk about it! Here’s some of the insight that includes thoughts like:

  • “That belonged on an NBC news channel” – Zing!
  • “It’s NFL Sunday, it’s halftime… do I really want watch Bob Costas giving me a dissertation on the second amendment? I want to watch football!” – Someone doesn’t know what a dissertation is, also Costas didn’t mention the constitution, also it’s halftime, so, sorry, no football is played during this time.
  • “We’re not interested in what Bob Costas thinks about guns.” – Because it’s a different point of view than yours?
  • “He could have killed her with his bare hands.” – Sure, but he didn’t.
  • “I guess Costas does not think Belcher is strong enough to asphyxiate his girlfriend.” – Now that you mention it, I do think it’s easier to decide to shoot your woman than to choke the bitch.

The NRA jumped in, too, telling USA Today that, “The one thing missing in that equation is that woman owning a gun so she could have saved her life from that murderer.” – Right, then it could have been an old-fashioned draw!

So a conversation about guns has started, although much of it is about when we should talk about guns. With the recent Oregon Mall Shooting in Clackamas, it seems foolish to dismiss gun violence as a real, legitimate problem in this country.

And there’s head injuries, which is a legitimate problem in football… one that could use some research.

And there’s the issue of drunk driving inside and outside the NFL. Like guns, drunk driving is a general societal problem, but one that occurs seemingly more often to professional football players than to others. Although no NFL player should have to drive drunk because the league has an entire chauffeur system, that system is obviously flawed, as it’s not being taken advantage of enough.

Some say education would help, which is surely would. Perhaps more strict DWI laws would help, too. Just another thing to maybe kinda talk about.

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