A sports sociologist based in Buffalo says there is a frequent link between violence and football and even guns.
But a Hall of Fame Bill says don't be quick to make that correlation. (cont'd below)
The apparent murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, 25, is one of a series of untimely deaths for current or former NFL players in recent years:
- In July 2012, Tennessee Titans receiver O.J. Murdock, 25, was found in his car in front of his Florida high school with what appeared to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
- In May 2012, Junior Seau, 43, shot himself in the chest at his home, less than 2 1/2 years after ending his Pro Bowl career as a linebacker. His family has donated some of his brain tissue for research amid questions about whether any damage from his 20-year football career played a factor in his suicide. His was at least the eighth among the 1994 San Diego Chargers, who played in the Super Bowl, joining Lew Bush (42; December 2011; apparent heart attack), Shawn Lee (44; February 2011; heart attack), Chris Mims (38; October 2008; enlarged heart), Curtis Whitley (39; May 2008; drug overdose), Doug Miller (28; July 1998; lightning strike), Rodney Culver (26; May 1996; airplane crash), David Griggs (28; July 1995; automobile accident).
- In April 2012, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, 62, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. An autopsy report found he had a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated concussions. Easterling played from 1972 to 1979 as a member of Atlanta's "Gritz Blitz" defense. After his career, he dealt with dementia, depression and insomnia, according to his widow.
- In February 2011, two-time Super Bowl champion Dave Duerson, 50, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Florida. Duerson had at least 10 concussions in his NFL career, according to his family, and lost consciousness during some. He left notes for his family asking that his brain be donated to science, and researchers at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University's School of Medicine concluded he had "moderately advanced" brain damage related to blows to the head.
- In September 2010, Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley, 23, shot himself at his home not far from the team's training complex. He was recovering from a second knee operation in eight months and, according to a probe of his death, was deep in debt.
- In December 2009, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry, 26, died from a fractured skull and other head injuries a day after tumbling out of the back of a pickup truck driven by his fiancee.
- In July 2009, Steve McNair, 36, the quarterback and 2003 NFL co-MVP who spent most of his career with the Tennessee Titans, was shot to death by his mistress, who then killed herself.
- In February 2009, Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, 26; free-agent NFL defensive lineman Corey Smith, 29; and former University of South Florida football player William Bleakley, 25, died when their boat overturned in rough water off the coast of Florida.
- In November 2007, Washington Redskins Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor, 24, bled to death after he was shot in the thigh during a botched robbery at his Florida home. Police said the group of robbers did not expect Taylor to be home because the Redskins had a game that weekend - but he was out with an injury.
- In March 2007, Denver Broncos running back Damien Nash, 24, collapsed and died of a heart attack after he played in a charity basketball game to raise funds for his heart foundation.
- In the early hours of New Year's Day 2007, Denver cornerback Darrent Williams, 24, died after being shot followed by a confrontation between Broncos players and gang members at a nightclub.
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"I grew up near Detroit, I had guns, women in my family, wonderful women, they carry guns," says Joe DeLamilellure.
"If you grew up on a farm you had a gun, it depends on how you were raised."
As DeLamielleure heard about this, he couldn't help but think back to a murder suicide in 1980. That's when Jim Tyrer, ironically a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, shot his wife and then took his own life.
But at the same time, DeLamiellure says it's random that such an incident involves a football team.
"A football team is a microcosm of society," explains DeLamielleure. "You've got the religious zealot, the dopehead, the family guy, the guy who runs out on his wife, it could happen anywhere."
At Medialle College, attorney Ross Runfola teaches sports sociology and is a frequent commentator on the way we treat atheletes- and the behavior that engenders.
"It's been brought up that perhaps there is a link between violence and sports. I'm not saying everyone who plays football is going to be having a prediliction for violence, but there seems to be some confluence," Runfola says.
"There seems to be an epidemic, especially in professional football," Runfola says, adding that fan worship can add to an athelete's sense of being able to do no wrong.
Add in the violence that a sport encourages and you have trouble, he says.
"(Football) attracts a certain individual who makes a mark in society by practicing violence," he says.
Runfola doesn't think that an inner city culture of violence is part of the equation- but he says a breakdown in an athlete's sense of right and wrong is a factor.
Guns become an obvious complication, he says.
"Costas said a truism that it makes it easier to kill someone when you have a gun. The fact that there is this sort of reaction about it itself is symbolic of the problems we have in this culture," Runfola says.
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Stephen Alstadt, Shooters Commiteee on Political Education (SCOPE)
KMBZ's Kyle Hendricks in Kansas City
Jovan Belcher walked off the field after his final practice, laughing and joking with Chiefs defensive tackle Shaun Smith about who would get into the game the most on Sunday afternoon.
Was Bob Costas out of bounds?
(AP) 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.
Costas isn't backing down from his halftime comments on gun violence, but he wishes he had more time.
The NBC sportscaster gave interviews Tuesday to Dan Patrick and Lawrence O'Donnell about his Sunday-night halftime commentary following Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher's murder of his girlfriend and subsequent suicide. Both interviews were longer than the commentary itself.
Costas said domestic violence, football, the gun culture and possible substance abuse could have been factors in the tragedy. He said the availability of a gun wasn't the only issue, but he didn't have more time for a nuanced discussion Sunday.
Costas' comments renewed one of society's most contentious debates, made more intense by people who believe that a football halftime show was not the right place for Costas to be speaking on the issue.
"You tune in for a football game and end up listening to Bob Costas spewing sanctimonious dreck," tweeted Herman Cain, the former GOP presidential candidate.
Above a headline "Advocacy Gone Awry?" the hosts of Fox's morning show "Fox & Friends" read letters from viewers criticizing Costas' stance. On Megyn Kelly's afternoon show, there was a debate on whether Costas should be fired.
Rock star and gun advocate Nugent was quick to criticize via Twitter: "Hey Bob Costas we all kno (sic) that obesity is a direct result of the proliferation of spoons and forks. Get a clue."
Former talk show host Rosie O'Donnell, however, tweeted "way to go, Bob Costas." His former NBC colleague, Keith Olbermann, observed that it was "amazing that all those ripping my friend Bob Costas would, had he taken opposing view, be defending him for using the 1st."
Even before he amplifed his earlier remarks. Costas received some criticism for injecting politics into a sporting event.
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 (so to speak) for distributing opinions and ideas to the world. Granted, most people don't have 20 million listeners at their command, as Costas did Sunday. 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!"
With that in mind, much debate surrounding Costas' commentary has sought to tease out a distinction between acceptable opinion and opinions that are out of bounds.
It's been said that politics and religion don't mix. But the response to Costas' commentary suggests that, for many within earshot, sports are even more sacred.
By this argument, a fractious world of partisan politics and cultural clashes has no place in the football sanctuary. Sports should be a refuge from life's harsher truths, a comfort zone for a special brand of clashing between rival teams. Here, Red State/Blue State differences can take a break and unite for a red-white-and-blue brand of partisanship.
So when politics encroaches on sports, it inevitably makes some fans queasy. Or livid.
Just recall President Jimmy Carter's controversial decision that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, two U.S. athletes raised a black-gloved fist in a black power salute during the medal ceremony. The two African-American athletes were expelled from the Games.
If Costas played politics for 90 seconds Sunday night, it was on a much reduced scale than those examples.
Yet many people "insist that an NFL broadcast is supposedly a sacrosanct and therefore apolitical space that must remain free of `hot-button issues,'" noted David Sirota in a Salon column on Tuesday. "But, then, in commenting on the Kansas City Chiefs murder-suicide, Costas was merely weighing in on the biggest NFL story of the day, which is exactly what he's paid to do and what typically happens during an NFL halftime show."
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 said in an appearance on MSNBC's "Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" on Tuesday. "I never mentioned the Second Amendment. I never used the words `gun control.' People inferred that."
Even so, it may be that Costas crossed a line by bringing politics into his football coverage.
But it wasn't the first time a hot-button issue had been pressed in a sports broadcast. In 2003, conservative radio superstar Rush Limbaugh resigned from a brief stint on the panel of ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown." His departure followed his race-tinged comments about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"Sports people say they don't want any politics involved," Limbaugh said in a Tuesday commentary addressing the Costas affair (where he cracked "I don't blame Bob Costas. I blame the microphone").
Limbaugh said there had been no provision in his deal with ESPN not to bring up politics. "But I never asked to be able to, either. It wasn't even on my mind."
Keeping sports and politics in separate spheres may be less and less possible in a world that breeds opinions and crossbreeds its performers.
In his Salon column, David Sirota noted that boundaries are disappearing between sports, culture, entertainment and politics: "Modern America is a place where an actor can become president, a pro wrestler can become a governor, a football player can become a congressman, and a comedian can become a U.S. senator." And (as he could've added) where a real estate mogul can become a TV host, political pundit and prospective presidential candidate.