On Sunday evening, during his halftime commentary segment on "Sunday Night Football," Bob Costas took his allotted 90 seconds to address the culture of guns in American society, in connection with the previous day's Kansas City murder-suicide. It was, to say the least, a controversial decision by Costas, both because of the opinion embraced and the forum chosen to do so.
On Thursday night, Costas will again consider the issue, this time on his own "Costas Tonight" on the NBC Sports Network. His guests for the pre-taped special are Charles Barkley and John McEnroe, both of whom had some fascinating comments on guns and gun control:
"I think, especially in the black culture, it's a crime culture," Barkley said. "We, as black people, and I always say we, we don't have respect for each other. We got more black men in prison than we do in college, and crime in our neighborhoods is running rampant. I know everybody reacts when something like the Belcher thing happens, but being black, this is something you deal with all the time, and it's just sad. I'm a guy and I carry a gun. I carry a gun."
Barkley expounded on his comments: "I carried a gun in my car, every year of my life since I was 20 — never had to use it," he said. "I just feel safer with it because we have jocks who get robbed all the time, road rage and things like that. I feel a sense of peace when I have it with me, but it would take extreme circumstances for me to even touch it."
McEnroe takes the opposite point of view: "I feel safer without it," he said. "I've got to say I think that there are just so many bad things that could happen. That's why someone like Mayor Bloomberg in New York City, where I live, has advocated, I think rightly so, that we get as many guns as possible off the streets. There are too many scenarios…that would make it that much easier to pick up a gun and do something."
Costas took the opportunity to expand on his comments, noting that gun control is, of course, not the only issue at work in the Belcher case: "Some people misunderstood when I pointed to what Jason Whitlock had said about a gun culture," he said. "They thought I was laying everything at the feet of that. Domestic violence is part of it; the possible effect that football itself has on many of its participants is part of it. Drugs and alcohol could be part of it. And I didn't say anything specifically about gun control legislation or the Second Amendment. I don't want to repeal the Second Amendment. I think we should have responsible gun control but that wouldn't prohibit somebody from carrying a gun."
On Sunday, Costas had quoted from a Jason Whitlock-penned article on Fox Sports, which reads, in part: "What I believe is, if he didn't possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today ... 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."
That set off an immediate and vitriolic response from both sports fans angry at politics' intrusion into their football and gun advocates furious at the linking of gun ownership to the tragedy. On Monday, Costas sought to clarify his comments, noting to the New York Times that he did not have sufficient time to fully elucidate his points. He indicated that he did not regret anything he said, but added 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."
"Costas Tonight" airs Thursday, Dec. 6, at 9 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.