Costas fallout: He defends anti-gun commentary; columnist wonders if he could have addressed touchy NFL issue

Bob Costas caught plenty of flak for his halftime commentary during Sunday night’s game. However, he wasn’t about to back down Monday.

In an interview with Bill Carter of the New York Times, Costas addressed the reaction:

After a flight overnight Sunday back from Dallas, where the Cowboys hosted the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, Mr. Costas said he woke to “a zillion text messages and phone messages” about his commentary. Most of them were supportive, he said, but there was also a torrent of harshly critical comments from defenders of gun ownership, whether online or on TV shows like “Fox and Friends” on the Fox News Network. Some of those critics called for NBC to fire him.

In the Monday interview, Mr. Costas said, “I am emphatically not backing off from anything I said.” But he noted that in the commentary he had quoted from a column posted on the Web site of Fox Sports by the writer Jason Whitlock. Since he was not able to reach Mr. Whitlock before going on the air on Sunday, Mr. Costas said he did not feel it proper to edit or add extensively to those comments.

What he sought to do in his comments the day after, Mr. Costas said, was not to clarify his remarks but to expand on them. Chiefly, he said, he wanted to emphasize that “I do not think the Second Amendment should be repealed and I do not think, under reasonable circumstances, that people should be prohibited from having guns.”

But he said, “I think most reasonable people think we do not have sufficient controls on the availability of guns and ammunition.”

Later, there was this passage:

The issue of guns has come up far too often in sports already, he said, with athletes seeming to be among the groups with the most gun owners. “Do you think the place guns have in sports is appropriate?” Mr. Costas asked. “That it’s healthy?”

He added: “I defy anyone to give me one example when an athlete having a gun averted trouble, defused a situation, protected someone from harm. But we can think of countless situations where an athlete having a gun led to tragedy.”


Eric Deggans, writing for the National Sports Journalism Center, took note of Costas quoting extensively from an anti-gun passage in Jason Whitlock’s column. Deggans, though, says the main point of Whitlock’s piece wasn’t about guns; rather he felt the Chiefs shouldn’t have played the game.

Deggans questions whether Costas could have addressed that issue on a NFL telecast.


He didn’t note, for example, that a larger share of Whitlock’s column was about a slightly different subject: The NFL’s decision to tell the Carolina Panthers to travel to Kansas City as planned Sunday, setting up the situation where they would play a game just one day after a starting linebacker there killed two people.

Whitlock’s column began with the line “Football is embarrassingly tone deaf.” Seven paragraphs in, he really got going, writing “Football is our God. Its exaggerated value in our society has never been more evident than Saturday morning in my adopted hometown. There’s just no way this game should be played.”

If Costas really wanted to make a statement, he could have talked about that part of Whitlock’s column, which consumed about three quarters of a 20 paragraph column. In an odd way, the sports anchor’s focus on the tail end of the column confirmed Whitlock’s words: Can anyone expect an NBC Sports anchor to note criticism of the NFL during a game currently underway?

Costas didn’t discuss that particular question with Carter. However, he did say this about commentaries related to the NFL:

Mr. Costas added that he had routinely used his time during halftime coverage to make personal observations and comments on a number of football-related subjects, including the level of violence displayed on the field.




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