"I am not backtracking at all": Bob Costas in his own words

When Kansas City Chiefs Jovan Belcher killed the mother of his child Kasandra Perkins and then committed suicide in front of his coach on Saturday, most of Sunday’s NFL coverage avoided direct commentary. Bob Costas did not. The veteran NBC sports broadcaster used 90 seconds at halftime of NBC’s top rated Sunday Night Football program to talk about "perspective" and, quoting a column by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, the problems with the “gun culture” in the United States. This ignited the fury of the right wing some of whom have called for his job. Then after appearances on The Dan Patrick Show and The O'Reilly Factor there are now liberals who believe Costas is backtracking from his earlier remarks. I spoke to Bob Costas this morning to set the record straight.

Dave Zirin: Do you have any regrets about your halftime commentary?

Bob Costas: Only that in this instance I had even less time than I usually do and it’s a complex issue that definitely involves domestic violence, possibly involves the football culture, possibly involves drugs and alcohol, and also obviously involves guns. I’m mystified by those who say that pointing out that the easy access to handguns and the existence of a gun culture makes tragedies like this more likely, somehow means you are shifting the blame from Jovan Belcher to the gun. That’s crazy. Belcher is 100% responsible and I have said that I was appalled that in the early stages of coverage of this tragedy many played it as if there were two victims and Belcher was one of them. No. He is the perpetrator and nothing diminishes that. But his having the gun made it more likely that something like this would occur. The fact that I didn’t have enough time to cite all of these factors – from the culture of football to Belcher’s personal responsibility - allows some people to claim that I was saying guns are the only issue. I emphatically do not think that. If I’d had even 45 seconds to a minute more, I could have dotted more I’s and crossed more Ts.

DZ: What many are saying is that it “wasn’t the right forum” for this discussion. Do you feel it was the right forum?

BC: I’d say close to 100% of those who feel that way do so simply because they disagree and didn’t want to hear the particular thing I had to say. If I said something they agreed with then they wouldn’t have any problems. All day, with varying degrees of insight, all four networks that carried football covered this story at some length. The preceding five minutes on our air was on this story and this story only. The only time anyone seems to think that was inappropriate was when I pushed this particular hot button. I would point out the obvious: that it was halftime. Not a single play was missed. Had this murder suicide not involved an NFL player, then it would not have been an appropriate topic for any of us to discuss in a football broadcast. But since it did, it became an appropriate topic. Look at it this way: I felt it was appropriate for me to discuss the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972 during the Olympic opening ceremonies. There was an issue there about the IOC’s refusal to officially recognize the 40th anniversary. Therefore whether other broadcasters would have done it or not, I felt that I should. On the other hand, if I had brought it up on the air in a different context, it would have made no sense and would have been inappropriate. If next week out of the blue, I start talking about Gays in sports at halftime of the football game, that’s inappropriate even if the comments are insightful. But if and when an NFL player comes out as Gay then there is a story there that provides a jumping off point. Then it would be entirely appropriate.

DZ: Erik Wemple of The Washington Post wrote that now you are backtracking from your comments. Are you?

BC: No I am not backtracking at all. I stand by what I said. To expand upon your thoughts when you have more time to do so or to clarify if you feel you have been misunderstood is not the same as backtracking.

DZ:  Why did you choose to speak about guns and gun culture and not about the NFL itself, perhaps about the wisdom of even playing the Chiefs-Panthers game just 24 hours after the murder suicide or to speak about the linkage between concussions and the four suicides among current and former players that have taken place in the last year?

BC: As for the NFL and the Chiefs’ decision to go ahead with the game, I was alright with that because I assumed it was based on the stated preference of the coaches and the majority of their players to go ahead. In this case, I think they would be the best judges. As for other aspects of football that may have played a role here, I have spoken often, including at halftime of Sunday night games about the violent nature of the NFL, about the concussion issue, and about other problems the NFL faces. I have no reluctance to do that and will do it again when appropriate. In this case, just 36 hours after the shootings, not enough was known about Belcher’s background to assume that this could be attributed to head trauma, drug abuse, etc. so the best I could do there was to say as I did that in the days ahead, questions will be raised about his actions and their possible connections to football. I felt that I indicated given the brief time I had that as the story developed it was entirely possible that there could be a linkage to football and some aspects of the football culture as we have seen with others but at that point it wasn’t possible to make that leap. What Whitlock wrote about the gun culture especially among young athletes seemed credible to me and an issue worth raising. As I said to you earlier, I only wish I hadn’t raised it in isolation. I believe it’s true. I believe it’s important but I do not believe it’s the only important aspect of the story.

DZ: You appeared last night on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News. There are people on Fox and in that right wing noise machine who have compared you to Don Imus or Hank Williams, Jr. and said you should lose your job. How do you respond to this?

BC: Don Imus called the women on the Rutgers basketball team, “nappy headed hos”. Hank Williams, Jr. compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler. I said that there is a gun culture in America that leads to tragedy. Anybody who thinks that the third comment falls in the same category as the first two doesn’t want to have a serious discussion about any of this. Sometimes, the best affirmation of your decisions and beliefs is the quality of thinking of those who oppose you. I’m not dismissing everyone who disagrees with what I have said and I certainly respect those who have reasoned disagreements. But one question I would pose is this: “Even if obtained legally, can’t people see what a volatile mix guns, in some cases medications, in some cases head trauma, and certainly a culture that romanticizes and to some extent legitimizes guns and violence can be when mixed together? These are questions that should be raised. And I plan to continue raising them.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the SportsWorld Upside Down” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]

21 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Vote Costas in '16!

Bob Costas has demonstrated more courage in the last week than any mealy-mouthed so-called "liberal" Democratic candidate has in years. He's certainly demonstrated more courage that president Obama. It's time to confront the fascist, White Supremacist NRA head on. It's time for sensible gun laws. And it's time to arrest Ted Nugent as a domestic terrorist.

Bob Costas

I usually loathe Bob Costas, but this time I think he's spot on.
Note: He's on about gun CULTURE. Not gun laws, not the 2nd amendment, not the NRA. About the culture that surrounds guns.
I swear that this is the first time ever he's either relevant or insightful, and one of few times he's not infuriating.

This is for all the old ladies that live in the not pleasing neighborhoods and housing developements.

Before everyone get's on a Anti-Gun rant.

1st thing is Gun is a thing,not good or bad.

2nd:Is not everyone lives in a nice gated neighborhoods like Bob Costas,Dave Zirin,Jason Whitlock,WeWanttheFunk,Matt.

3rd:Police are wayy more likely to show up on call in Hollywood than Watts and i've known folks that lived in badd neighborhoods where they called the cops @12:45 am and the cops didn't show up until 4 am.
That means the person could've been easily murdered,robbed,the women raped and the children molested.
The Police don't prevent crimes but clean up crimes.

4th:I've known old women that lived in runned down neighborhoods and at 6 PM they don't go out at night,plus they wish they had the money to get out of that neighborhood.

Like in Hurricane Sandy when it came for the Government and Police to help defend,to see that the people are taken care of,they bailed out on the people and said"Screw you,your on your Own".
So in your time of need the police ain't going be there.

"I for one can defend myself"but the old ladies and folks less fortunate need guns to defend themselves.

It's amazing The Bible Thumpers on the Conservative side want to outlaw Abortions
The Anti-Gun Thumpers on the Liberal side want to outlaw Guns.

You know what this proves?The Liberals are as religious as the Conservatives in that you get into my life and shove your religion down my throat.

In the 1st Amendment it talks about a Separation of Church and State which i adhere to.


People who advocate taking away the guns before you take away the guns from people such as myself.
Better take care house and your own business

P.S Even without guns Jovan Belcher would've still killed his Girlfriend

Even if you take away the Guns.

Jovan Belcher would've killed his girlfriend and himself.
*Driving off a Bridge
*Pillows to smother

Look Old Ladies and folks less fortunate need protection and the gun helps them

Gun Rights Do Not Work

We should split two issues. First, Costas should not be fired for pointing out there is are cultural problems in football. The whole culture is a shambles. I can't imagine wanting a team at one's college, for instance.

Second, this plan to distribute guns so we all defend ourselves just isn't working. Crime and violence stats are better in most countries of similar or even somewhat lower wealth. We should do what they do.


If Belcher didn't have a Gun, then MAYBE he would have killed his girlfriend.

But a Gun made it a lot more likely.

Using a gun is a step removed, a step back, not up close and personal.

Sort of like the drone/tazer debate. If it makes it easier to happen, it will happen more often.

Will Robinson

No one said anything about taking anyone's guns away or making them illegal for that matter, what costas and for that matter Whitlock were talking about was the availability of guns as well as gun culture and specifically the problems involved with those two things.
Also do you realize how ridiculous you sound when you list those other methods of killing and equate them with guns. Guns make it very easy to kill people and that is a fact, also those other methods require planning and premeditation using a gun does not.

Will Robinson

Here we go. Did you have any direct argument for any point mentioned in this article, or did you just want some place to argue with gun control types? Neither Zirin nor Costas argued for a policy of outlawing guns.

I don't know whether Costas, Zirin, Whitlock, or any of these posters lives in a gated community, and doubt you know, either. Not that it would be relevant anyway. For all I know, Belcher could just as easily have lived in a gated community as the people you named. The gun that killed 2 people belonged to a regular, law-abiding citizen, not a convicted criminal, and the assailant was not a burglar or outside bogeyman. Since I haven't seen it reported otherwise, I'll guess that Belcher purchased the gun legally, plausibly because he too believed "in your time of need the police ain't going be there." Having the gun certainly didn't make his girlfriend any safer.

"Even without guns Jovan Belcher would've still killed his Girlfriend." Were you his therapist? Psychiatrist? Social worker assigned to his household? His confidant? He could have killed himself and girlfriend, but I don't see how you would know this.

If you want one and your local law enforcement doesn't have a problem with it, neither do I. Problem is, NRA and other gun advocates aren't honest about what a gun is and why they want one. While it is true a gun is not dangerous all by itself, it is just not honest to argue that it is no more dangerous than a golf club or a can opener. The whole reason you want a gun and not just a can of pepper spray is the same reason some people don't want you to have one. While almost any object can cause a lethal injury, nothing is quite as quick, efficient, concealable, portable, accessible, reliably deadly, or as effective from distance.

So cluless, both liberals *and* gun rights followers

Will Robinson, oh, go cry some more crocodile tears that, if liberals had their way, grandmothers couldn't pull out their 9mms in the 'hood -- as if that would help.

And the rest of you Leftists like Matt, WeWantTheFunk, Aaron and of course Zirin, keep railing on about gun control when you're not talking about the REAL issue. Big hint: practically every adult male in countries as disparate as Switzerland and Israel own guns, but their rate of murder-suicides and violent criminality, let alone anything close to gang violence, is pretty freaking low.

So, let's get to the real issue, which Jason Whitlock summed up all-too-well when he called Sean Taylor's murderers in 2007 the "Black KKK". Yup, time for black folk to take a long hard look in the mirror, and think about why guns, and violence in general, are glorified in their music, their videos and other media. Are you Liberal punks really scared of Ted Nugent? Really!?! How about compared to the inner-city homeboys ambling down the street? Jesse Jackson sure crossed to the other side of the road.

It's not gun culture, folks, it's ahem, CULTURE. And while all population groups have historically shown their potential for savagery and violence, blacks have rarely shown their potential for civilization.

When all jjdynomite's got. . .

. . .is name calling, finger pointing, threats and intimidation, he's only showing his true character. And it's very ugly indeed.

Yeah it's black culture

Cleary, the violent culture in the US is completely caused by black people. White kids in suburbia never buy rap music ever. All they by is Chopin, Beethoven, Barbra Streisand and other high end Art music.

The three top grossing films in the US all feature gratuitous violence (The Dark Night Rises, The Hunger Games, The Avengers), but we all know it was the Black community going to see them en mass that bumped up those numbers. White people would never watch that kind of filth ever. White people only ever watch classy Films like "Monsieur Lazhar".

And one more thing....

Clearly, JJ's forgotten about all the atrocities that other races have visited upon the world. Do the Crusades and the Holocaust, among others, ring a bell?

As Bill Hicks once noted "We're a virus with shoes, OK? That's all we are."

A quote I just saw. . .

, , ,from Bob Costas himself, and it applies to JJ, Tornado, former troll Bruce Jacobs and others who are going after him:

"Sometimes the quality of the thinking of those who oppose you speaks for itself."

Glad to say that Costas is one of ours here in St. Louis!

Nice job going after the messenger...

... and not even trying to refute my arguments, except for bringing up examples of violent movies in general. Why do non-blacks making violent movies have anything to do with black violence? Last I checked The Dark Night didn't glorify violence like 50 Cent does.

And Crusades and the Holocaust, Carl? Really? Funny, I didn't know that the Knights Templar and Nazi SS played in the NFL and/or lived in the United States of the 21st century. Thanks for the enlightenment.

If you want to compare mass, organized violence with the random, meaningless savagery routinely inflicted by North American blacks on each other, and the racial violence they inflict on non-blacks, go right ahead. But you'd be blind to the facts, which can be easily accessible by any FBI database.

Black-on-black and black-on-other-racial-group violence occurs suddenly, impulsively, with little or no purpose or forethought, similar to what American Indian tribes would do to any member of a different tribe who fell into their grip: they would torture him in unbelievable ways for days or weeks until he died. For a more modern day reference, see the Knoxville Atrocity. Then you have all the "flash mob" attacks that Letists like ColinSTL would choose to ignore unless it happens to him.

Kasandra Perkins got off "easy", by comparison, she was "only" shot nine times in the chest, neck and abdomen, with one of the EIGHT guns that Belcher owned. Get your heads out of the sand, people.

Bob Costas

Matt, whom exactly has Ted Nugent terrorized? Just because you don't like what he says and don't like his support of the NRA and the 2nd Amendment, it's no reason to accuse him of being a criminal.

It seems you would toss out the 1st Amendment along with the 2nd.

It's not a flash mob attack JJ:

It's simply pointing out the truth about your own attacks. And with few words as possible, may I add?

Your own rebuttals sound like they came from the white-supremacist group the Council of Conservative Citizens, who are based in suburban St. Louis. Would you care to share your findings with the rest of the class?

Bottom line: You tend to talk a lot, but you really don't say anything.

And one other thing. . .

JJ's long-winded rebuttal is a classic example of Costas' quote that I used. Enough said, folks.

Bob Costas--guns

Quite frankly I am stunned that a mainstream dweeb like Bob Costas has more and bigger balls than anyone I've heard speak on this subject on national television. It just goes to show how successful the NRA has been in suppressing the debate over guns that the obvious and commonsense comments made by Costas can be attacked. After a day of watching everyone dance around the subject and all the "mystifying" circumstances lamented, Bob just stated the obvious. Jesus, now I might have to stop fast forwarding to Tony Dunge on Football NIght in America and endure Bob's platitudes in hopes of stumbling across another crumb of relevance.

The Ted Nugent scam.

Mr. idiot Nugent, apparently, has had a gun set up in his yard for 30 years that is cocked and loaded. Says it hasn't killed anyone yet. How utterly moronic! Okay then, let's give everyone a nuclear device.

Bob Costas

Mr. Costas proves once again what a class act and rare voice he is in modern sports commentary. The backlash is as shallow and infantile as one would expect. Why not respect a citizens right to speech and opinion at least as much as their right to own as many, or as many kinds, of deadly weapons they feel is needed? I own two guns and favor a responsible respect for the Second Amendment, but agree with Costas 100 %. Thank goodness for a little thoughtfulness and perspective interjected into our sports entertainment. Bob Costas, as always, is a voice of reason above the simplistic B.S. we so often hear in every media that covers sports.

Ted Nugent, April 17, 2012

CNN: ”If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year,” Nugent said, according to a video posted on YouTube by the NRA. “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil America hated administration, I don’t even know what you’re made out of.”

If Michael Moore had said that, Michael would be in Gitmo.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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