Was Costas out of line with his gun remark?
Clearly, Bob Costas stirred up a hornet's nest Sunday with a halftime commentary about Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend (and the mother of his child) before killing himself.
On Twitter, someone posed this question: “Who put Costas on in the middle of a football game so he could spew his one sided beliefs?” Another tweeter sharply recommended Costas “stick to football ... the more you talk, the dumber you sound.” And on and on it went. The message resounded: Bob Costas, just shut up.
All from this: “If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun,” Costas told a TV audience of more than 20 million, “he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
The reasons for the pushback were familiar when a celebrity — be it musician, sportscaster, even news anchor — bypasses what the public believes is that star's area and expounds on issues in the larger world. But as our world grows into a place where anyone with a smartphone and an Internet connection can rant far and wide, celebrities, it seems, are still held to a higher standard — or a different one — than the rest of us.
Reaction to Costas' remarks was swift, with much of it harsh, ranging from the scolding hosts of Fox News Channel's “Fox & Friends” the next morning to agitated sports fans typing tweets as they watched him on NBC's broadcast of the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game.
Numerous reasons were advanced for why Costas had no business weighing in on the issue of gun ownership (while others expressed their support for him).
But in an odd lapse of reasoning, many of the opinion slingers who condemned Costas blasted him for simply voicing his opinion.
Technology has leveled the playing field for distributing opinions to the world. Most people don't have 20 million listeners at their command, as Costas did. But everyone can post a comment on any topic that, via social media, can reach a global audience.
Consumer feedback is solicited by media outlets and other organizations around the clock. A public forum for opinions that can span the world is guaranteed anyone in reach of a Wi-Fi connection.
And yet, in an era when widespread opining is deemed our basic human right, an opinion that is often leveled at others for doing so is “You should shut up!”
Were Costas' reflections on when “ugly reality intrudes upon our games” really so intrusive and outrageous?
Did his status as a professional commentator really disqualify him from sharing a thought about a tragedy that millions of his fellow Americans were talking about?
Should he really lose his job? (That was an opinion voiced on Fox News Channel.)
“What I was talking about here — and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear to everybody — was a gun culture,” Costas told MSNBC on Tuesday. “I never mentioned the Second Amendment. I never used the words ‘gun control.' People inferred that.”
Frazier Moore is a television columnist for The Associated Press.