Bob Costas calls Jovan Belcher commentary “a mistake”

December 4, 2012

Neighbors share their grief outside the Long Island home of Jovan Belcher’s mother. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)

Bob Costas said he made a “mistake,” violating his own rule of not trying to compress a nuanced topic into small bit of air time, with his controversial halftime commentary Sunday night on the murder-suicide committed by Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs the day before.

“My mistake is I left it open for too much miscommunication,” Costas said in a lengthy interview on “The Dan Patrick Show.” The 90-second weekly spot, he said, doesn’t offer enough time in which to adequately discuss the issue of “the football culture, the gun culture, domestic violence.”

“For a long time, I’ve been wanting to get off my chest my disgust with this idea that every time something tragic happens, no matter what it may be, that in any way touches sports, there’s a chorus of people saying, ‘you know, this really puts it in perspective.’ Which is a bunch of nonsense, because if that was true, we wouldn’t have to have that perspective adjusted every time the next tragedy occurs. It’s a bunch of nonsense,” Costas said. “And what I was trying to say was, that if you want some perspective on this, there are a number of issues related to this that we could begin to talk about and think about. The problem was that I didn’t have enough time to get to many of them. And that, I think, was my mistake, to be quite honest, Dan. A friend of mine in broadcasting pointed this out to me yesterday, and I agree with him. He said, ‘you violated your own rule.’ Because we have had this discussion before: I’ve always said, if you’re going to get into touchy topics, nuanced topics, make sure that you have enough time to flesh them out … or save them for forums where you do. In this particular situation, the timeliness of it was, if you’re going to comment on it at all, it had to be this Sunday.”

Related: Costas continues to elaborate on his commentary

In his commentary, Costas cited a column by Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports and concluded that “if Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins [Belcher's girlfriend] would both be alive today.”

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Costas felt the heat for his comments immediately on Twitter and in lengthier criticism Monday, when some were calling for NBC to fire him.

“There are reasonable disagreements, and I respect that. But then there are things that come from every angle, where you just have to say to yourself ‘sometimes the quality of the thinking of those who oppose you speaks for itself.’ I was told — I didn’t see it — that someone compared this as a fire-able offense to situations in which people have made blatantly racist comments, or comments that had no place whatsoever,” Costas said.

“This is simply a case of: some people don’t agree with it, or they don’t agree with what they think I was saying, and therefore, it would be okay if I was booted off the air … ‘let’s fire everybody we don’t agree with.’ It’s just absurd.”

And what, exactly, is Costas’s position on gun control? He said he draws a line at semi-automatic weapons. 

“Here’s where I stand: I do not want to see the Second Amendment repealed. … People should be allowed to own guns for their own protection. Obviously, those who are hunters. … Access to guns is too easy in some cases. I don’t see any reason a citizen should be able to arm himself in some states in ways only police or military should — to have a virtual militia [by] mail order or gun shows. Why do you need a semi-automatic weapon? What possible use is there? … Whitlock wrote about a gun culture. That’s what I was focusing on.”

Part of the culture is the proliferation of weapons, he said.

“There are those who believe that denying a semi automatic weapon or an assault rifle is the first step down a slippery slope in denying an old lady a gun for her own protection,” Costas said. “There are people who honestly believe that in Aurora [Colo.] if only a dozen or so people there to watch the Batman movie had been packin’, they would have been able to take down the nut job in full body armor with military-type guns.

“I think any police officer, if you told them that, would roll their eyes.”

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

More on the Belcher tragedy

Report: Belcher shot girlfriend, then kissed her and apologized

Costas clarifies, Chiefs talk about guns

Watch: Brady Quinn’s eloquent comments

Costas advocates stronger gun control

Erik Wemple: Sports outlets treat politics with care

“Normal couple stuff” before murder-suicide

Chiefs set grief aside for a game against Carolina

Belcher’s murder/suicide leaves Chiefs reeling

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren · December 4, 2012