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Dave Zirin interviews Bob Costas: 'I Stand by What I Said'

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  • Ed Pearl
    http://www.thenation.com/blog/171630/bob-costas-i-stand-what-i-said?rel=emai lNation# Bob
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 10, 2012
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      Bob <http://www.thenation.com/blog/171630/bob-costas-i-stand-what-i-said>
      Costas: 'I Stand by What I Said'

      Dave <http://www.thenation.com/authors/dave-zirin> Zirin on December 6,
      2012 - 11:50 AM ET

      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
      er_n_2229496.html> ninety seconds at halftime of NBC's top rated Sunday
      Night Football program to talk about "perspective" and, quoting a
      ay-120112> column by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, the problems with
      the "gun culture" in the United States. This ignited the fury of
      right-wingers, some of whom have called for his job. Then after appearances
      cktracks-on-gun-remarks/> on The
      cktracks-on-gun-remarks/> Dan Patrick Show and The
      as-you-cannot-have-it-both-ways/> 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 percent 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 forty-five
      seconds to a minute more, I could have dotted more I's and crossed more Ts.

      What many are saying is that it "wasn't the right forum" for this
      discussion. Do you feel it was the right forum?

      I'd say close to 100 percent 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 fortieth
      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.

      Erik Wemple of The Washington Post wrote
      as-you-cannot-have-it-both-ways/> that now you are backtracking from your
      comments. Are you?

      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.

      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 twenty-four 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?

      As for the NFL and the Chiefs' decision to go ahead with the game, I was all
      right 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 thirty-six 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.

      Like this article? Support this <https://donate.thenation.com/sitelink>
      journalism with a $5 donation now.

      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?

      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.

      For more on the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, read Dave
      ational-football-league> Zirin's last post on the NFL's senseless decision
      to continue play the next day.

      Related Topics: Sports <http://www.thenation.com/section/sports> | Guns and
      Gun <http://www.thenation.com/section/guns-and-gun-control> Control |
      Journalists <http://www.thenation.com/section/journalists-and-journalism>
      and Journalism

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