The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 12/3/12, 7:00 PM ET

Rewriting outrage at Bob Costas on gun control

The tragic murder suicide of Kansas City player Jovan Belcher shook the world of sports over the weekend. During "Sunday Night Football" on NBC, Emmy-winning...

O’Donnell rewrites right-wing backlash against Bob Costas

Updated

Bob Costas has jumped into the middle of a political debate so contentious, presidential candidates don’t even like to touch it. During NBC’s primetime halftime show, Costas discussed the biggest news that hit football this past weekend. Saturday morning, Kansas City Chief’s linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend and mother of their three-month-old daughter, Kasandra Perkins, before killing himself in the parking lot of the Chiefs’ practice facility with the Chiefs’ coach and General Manager present.

Just 28 hours after Belcher’s tragic death, the Chiefs’ coach and General Manager, Chiefs players, owner Clark Hunt and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided to continue with Sunday’s football home game at Arrowhead Stadium and so the Chiefs players took the field. msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell quickly points out that the game of football is actually a business, and the football business had hoped to get away with confronting the biggest news that hit football over the weekend.

“Football being football, and by that of course I mean football being big business, the game, and by that of course I mean the big business, must go on–and so of course the Kansas City Chiefs played their money-making game the next day. And the football business was hoping that TV football commentators would ignore the biggest thing that happened in football this weekend. But Bob Costas could not.”


Bob Costas decided to provide some perspective during his halftime show,  quoting from Fox Sports’ columnist Jason Whitlock’s piece:

“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.”


Even though Costas never mentioned the phrase gun control or intimated that a change in law should occur, the NBC sportscaster aimed to use his air-time to have a larger discourse around the recent event. According to O’Donnell, Costas carefully referenced certain parts of Jason Whitlock’s piece that, in fact, makes the case for gun control.

“You can see that Bob Costas chose to quote it carefully, specifically leaving out the part where Jason Whitlock does get political–and eloquently so. Here’s part of what Bob Costas didn’t read from that article: ‘We’ve come to accept our insanity. We’d prefer to avoid seriously reflecting upon the absurdity of the prevailing notion that the Second Amendment somehow enhances our liberty rather than threatens it. How many young people have to die senselessly? How many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn’t protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?’”


After Costas addressed the tragedy, the right-wing took to social media to respond to his “left-wing political lecture.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain accused Costas of “spewing sanctimonious dreck,” while pro-Second Amendment rock musician Ted Nugent sent multiple tweets basically telling Costas to “get a clue.” And today, Mike Huckabee was enraged on his radio show, rewriting what Costas said Sunday night. Huckabee said, “Costas went on for several minutes basically trying to make the case for gun control, saying that if we’d only had handgun control then this crime would have never happened.”

In an telephone interview today with New York Times’ Bill Carter, Bob Costas responded to the critics that called for NBC to fire him by stating that he has been given the freedom by NBC to editorialize on subjects related to football and sports. He also told The New York Times, “I am emphatically not backing off from anything I said.”

Costas continued to expand on his original remarks, telling Carter:

“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.” He called for “a combination of enlightened legislation and controls, coupled with an adjustment in our attitude toward guns.” He added, “Common sense tells us the culture is overrun by guns and that many people who possess them are dangerous or careless.”


Standing by his remarks Sunday night, Costas gave one final thought.

“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.”

O'Donnell rewrites right-wing backlash against Bob Costas

Updated