NBC’s Bob Costas has found himself in hot water after doing something he does every Sunday night…deliver a brief commentary to conclude the Sunday Night Football halftime show. My question is which part of Sunday’s commentary (which has reverberated far beyond the sports world) created the controversy: the duration or the platform?
In case you missed it, Costas used his 75-second time slot to talk about gun control following a bizarre string of events Saturday where a Kansas City Chiefs player killed his girlfriend at home and, later at the team’s practice facility, himself. Costas largely based his Sunday night commentary on a piece written earlier in the day by Kansas City-based sportswriter Jason Whitlock. The commentary has turned into a PR nightmare for who took to the air today to defend himself.
Costas stated on The Dan Patrick Show that he violated his own long-standing rule of not tackling controversial topics when a clear, complete view cannot be expressed. Certainly, a 75-second window is not enough time to include any relevant late-breaking facts, along with citing someone else’s work and his own opinion (of which the line is still blurry as to what Costas was borrowing from Whitlock and what was Costas’ own perspective). He went on to say while the time necessary to fully express himself wasn’t there, many of his comments have been taken out of context. Opponents of the Costas commentary have said it was an attack on Second Amendment rights, while others have claimed the comments were based in-part on racial stereotypes.
It seems even the most-passive critics of the Costas commentary say, more than anything else, they were surprised that type of social dialogue was presented during a sports telecast on a major broadcast network. In other words, the commentary isn’t necessarily in question rather the issue is the forum in which the comments were presented. I look forward to the Costas halftime commentary every week, but even I was taken aback by the language and tone of the remarks.
Costas tried distancing himself from the comments today, claiming his repeated attempts to reach Whitlock for permission to paraphrase and tweak the comments prior to the broadcast went unsuccessful. Therefore, he was more or less repeating someone else’s comments not creating or supporting them himself. He also suggested the issue of football, guns, and domestic violence should get a serious discussion in another forum.
More info from USA Today (including quotes from today’s appearance on The Dan Patrick Show”: http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon/2012/12/04/how-bob-costas-really-feels-about-guns-jovan-belcher-suicide-kansas-city-chiefs/1745491/
The Take-Away: If the need to explain yourself exists, but the time to do so does not, change the conversation to something else. Even one of the most-noted and most-respected journalists in the country isn’t above a simple principle: don’t start something (in this case, a conversation on a sensitive and complex matter) you can’t properly finish.