Men Talk Guns: Costas, Whitlock, & Powell

These are the kinds of things I want to hear more men saying about guns and masculinity.

In the days after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then himself, both in front of other people, we’ve been having our periodic too-short-conversations about gun culture.  Earlier this year, following the mass shooting at the Sikh community in Wisconsin, I wrote about how talking about this after a terrible tragedy is, for those involved, too late.

This time, a few men are also talking about how certain hyper-masculine pressures are part of our culture problem.

Apparently, lots of people were upset that Bob Costas took 90 seconds out of his Sunday Night Football coverage to talk about Perkins’ murder.

Here’s the video, much of it quoting sports journalist Jason Whitlock:

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And part of the transcript of his comments:

Please, those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock with whom I do not always agree, but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article.

“Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.”

Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows?”

“But here,” wrote Jason Whitlock, “is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

I’m glad Costas said what he said, when he said it, and where he said it.  Surely it’s the NFL audience (men men men) who didn’t want to hear it, but they are the ones who perhaps most need to hear it.  And really, they need more than 90 seconds.

While reminding us that we shouldn’t forget about Kasandra Perkins, the first victim in this tragedy, Kevin Powell writes over at that our constructs of what it means to be a man are part of the culture problem that we have got to solve:

Belcher was a man living in the supersized macho world of football, a world in which many of us American males reside, be it football or not. Too many of us have been taught manhood in a way that is not healthy. Be tough, men do not cry, man up — these are the things I’ve heard my entire life, and I now cringe when I hear this relayed to boys or younger men by teachers, coaches, fathers, mentors and leaders.

Or we use derogatory and sexist or homophobic words to describe men or boys who do not meet the “normal” of what a male is supposed to be. Some of these male authority figures mean well, or are simply repeating what they were socialized to be or to do, and do not realize that they are unwittingly teaching that manhood has little room to express hurt, disappointment and sorrow.

Yes, they had been arguing, Belcher and his girlfriend, but in my work as an activist, including around gender violence prevention, I’ve seen the tragic pattern across our nation of men who, in the heat of rage, have killed their girlfriends, wives or lovers, as if they had no other vocabulary or emotion to deal with the disagreement or the break-up.

More men need to have more honest conversations about guns and interpersonal violence.

This is a start.

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Kim Hampton

    I’m glad that they are talking about guns, but the larger issue of domestic violence is being pushed to the side. And as long as we divorce Jovan Belcher’s possession of a gun with his history of domestic violence, we do Kasandra Perkins’ memory a disservice.

    And those who are “people of the book” need to address domestic violence more forcefully in the church and out of the church.

    • Caryn Riswold

      Absolutely, I agree that domestic violence must be a part of our ongoing conversation, especially in churches.

  • Mark Schelske

    I saw Bob Costas on Sunday Night Football and I am so glad you are providing this video for those who did not see it. Men cannot continue to be in denial about gun violence.

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  • Sikh

    I do believe that we need gun control and some limit on the max caliber a citizen can own. We don’t need automatic weapons to protect ourselves. Regarding Jovan Belcher shooting his girl-friend, this is a domestic violence issue. If Jovan did not own a gun, he would have battered her anyway.

  • Caryn Riswold

    Here is video of Costas’ interview with Lawrence O’Donnell Tuesday night, following up to the pushback:

  • Trisha Marie

    Costas was anything but lucid, and several snowballs distanced from cogent. Perhaps some might find him embraceable as the baseline metrosexual?
    “Gun Control” is a lifelong discipline and study to develop and maintain accuracy, branching out into metal working (for decoration and/or repairs), applied physics (intrinsic to engaging targets reliably in diverse weather to distances of 1000 yards – an art I look forward to embracing as a study of concentration), and American history as we surely own our origins with pride and calm certainty.
    Paxton Quigley sums up many of the above points in a women-centric way that’s admirable – and shames Costas’ rambling.
    Who’d have thought: Lutherans for gun control! I haven’t been to church in several decades, but last time I went, it was to enjoy a thunderous, scholarly fire-and-brimstone sermon by a vigorous octogenarian Pastor who most certainly espoused self-reliance and self-defense, long before it was in vogue!
    You have every right to admit to being hoplophobic – just understand I hold a diametric high ground to such flabby-hearted posits. If you want to understand an historical reality from a society that chose a blade instead of a firearm to settle domestic issues, please research Puukkojunkkari of the last century.
    You don’t want semi-automatic firearms, or limit them to a certain caliber? You must be fervent that any associate of the folks mentioned here ( ) don’t commute.
    They could care less about any laws. . .

  • Randall Gomez

    To many americans who are christian, firearms are a way of life. Some look upon them as tools. I am a law abiding citizen who enjoys the shooting sports and reagularly shoot weapons of various “caliber”. People who have’nt grown up around guns do not have the same respect for them as we do. It would be wrong to deny me and others like me the right to enjoy our way of life. The point that everyone is missing is this a clear case of domestic abuse! The gun in question was just a means to an end. To me its as if bob costas heard a football player ran over his girlfriend with a car, he would be calling for the crackdown on CARS and the american car culture. They are both looked upon as freedoms of living in america.

    • Caryn Riswold

      I grew up around guns, in a house with hunters whom I respect and love very much, whose venison bounty I enjoy to this day. And they are men who embody what responsible gun ownership looks like. Your apparent presumption that I, and anyone else who calls for sensible conversation and yes, legislation, did not grow up in such an environment, reveals something about you and not me.

      • Trisha Marie

        ” Your apparent presumption that I, and anyone else who calls for sensible conversation and yes, legislation, did not grow up in such an environment, reveals something about you and not me.”
        That’s good for a laugh; thanks!
        My family’s from the Dakotas (they moved to Cali during WWII). My High School was near the birthplace of the CRIPS .
        To hunt I use a 60 pound bow with G5 broadheads.
        To have a choice between ending up in physical therapy after being released from ICU after an attack (screaming for help brought no one, btw) again, or having the option of defending myself if in imminent danger of life by ownership, training with and the concealed carry of a major power factor (TC 200gr .45ACP @ 980fps) semi-auto, I’ll go with the latter.
        I’m a lesbian and a libertarian – Augie was a laugh for me – so many curious girls (I went there to learn about my folks’ roots as it were)! The Lutheran church and I parted ways years ago, but I have no issues with those who ascribe to Christian flavors of dogma.
        “Sensible” men and women founded this Republic. Intelligent, courteous, diverse, and often enthusiasts of Lairds distillery’s product, they were not, however, timid in the face of an overwhelming force, overt and covert, when liberty was the prize.
        My male role model is the legacy of Col. Jeff Cooper. You love the family you are bound to by blood – for me, I choose those who fly the Gadsden Flag and are Three Percenters.
        Maybe you should get out more?
        Is the reveal what you anticipated?
        Presume away.