A week ago Jovan Belcher was an obscure linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, in the aftermath of Belcher murdering girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, then committing suicide in front of his coaches, Belcher has become yet another symbol of our society's messy mix of politics and sport. Bob Costas, the veteran sports journalist, took to the airwaves last Sunday night at halftime of NBC's Sunday Night Football game to advocate for gun control. Quoting sports writer Jason Whitlock's column, Costas said, "If Jovan Belcher didn't own a gun, he and Perkins would be alive today."
As with most things, it's not that simple.
Here's the thing:
I like Bob Costas, but he's not one to go out on a social issue limb, something he's been criticized for in the past. Costas is a sports guy, appearing for the most part as apolitical.
But NBC gives Bob Costas a 90 second platform on Sunday nights, so if he wants to address gun control, the environment or the price of salmon it's fine with me. It just may not be fine with viewers.
Some have called for Costas to be fired for his commentary, invoking the 2003 Rush Limbaugh ESPN controversy. Limbaugh was ousted from football pre-game duties after saying the media favored Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb because of "social concern" and the NFL's desire for black quarterbacks to succeed.
Fire Bob Costas? Nah.
But ESPN shouldn't have fired Rush Limbaugh either. The question is why ESPN chose to hire him in the first place.
The difference between Bob Costas and Rush Limbaugh is that Limbaugh was a political giant when he landed at ESPN; a politico who happened to love football. What on earth were ESPN execs thinking? Good question. Somehow they thought Limbaugh would stick to blitz packages and the hurry-up offense.
That's not the case with Bob Costas.
Limbaugh himself joked about the Costas gun control fury saying, "I don't blame Costas, I blame the microphone."
We will learn a lot more in the coming weeks about Jovan Belcher's troubles. There is no simple answer for fans, the media or the young daughter left behind, especially in 90 second sound bites.