NYT Sports Columnist William Rhoden Wishes NFL Would Ban Gun Ownership by Players

On MSNBC's The Ed Show Monday night, New York Times sports columnist William Rhoden defended NBC sportscaster Bob Costas' controversial comments during an NFL broadcast Sunday night on the murder-suicide committed by Kansas City Chief player Jovan Belcher, even agreeing to the idea that the NFL commissioner try to ban players from owning guns. (Video at bottom.)

Costas had quoted an anti-gun screed by sports columnist Jason Whitlock, in part: "Our current gun culture '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."

Rhoden went on to chide the Kansas City Chiefs for playing their scheduled game Sunday.

I really applaud Costas and Whitlock. I don't think that enough voices can be raised against this gun ownership. Yes. But the problem you have, Ed, is number one, they shouldn't have played the game. That shows you that the priorities are off from day one. They should not have played that game. But once again, the money wins out. Obviously, I think that they'd probably do it in the NBA. Yes, you have to discourage people from carrying guns, and particularly in the National Football League, with everything that's going on about the clear connection now between mental health and brain damage and erratic behavior exacerbated in probably one of the most violent games on earth.

Romeo Crenell said that Belcher was a leader. He was always sitting up in the front of the room. And he was one of the first guys in drills. We didn`t see this coming. And that's the problem. Number one, they are not trained to see it coming.

So it's -- the gun lobby is just so overwhelming. I think that if athletes, for example, who if they are looking for a new civil rights campaign, I think this is it. Those people, those athletes, high profile athletes who are really sick and tired of this, I think this is their civil rights campaign, to get guns off the street."

Schultz even suggested that perhaps the NFL could insist players couldn't own guns. Rhoden loved the vague notion:

SCHULTZ: I think the culture of the NFL, Mr. Rhoden, is you have a bunch of young players who have a lot of money early in life. Not all of them make the right decisions. They have the pressure to keep their job. They have injuries. We just don`t know everything that surrounded this. All of a sudden, a firearm is involved. My question, is there anything the NFL can do to prevent this kind of stuff?

RHODEN: Yes. Tragically, I think the question is no. You can`t -- it would be great if Roger Goodell could say, OK, if -- as a condition of coming into this league --

SCHULTZ: Every company has rules.

RHODEN: Well, you can try it. I mean, I would love to see him try it. But I think you get into Constitutional issues. I just think it's much deeper than that, Ed. This is a weapons culture. And I just think that I would love to see it happen. But even if we talk about hunting and that type of thing, our -- as a society, our attitude toward the taking of life and how we define who lives, who doesn't live.

SCHULTZ: If we don`t have the conversation now, when are we going to have it? And I commend Bob Costas for what he did last night. It took a great deal of courage. The Wayne LaPierres of the world are always going to be around heckling and going after it and fear mongering. They've got a history of that.

Rhoden has a history as well...of awkwardly mixing sports and liberal politics. He called for the cancellation of the 2003 NCAA men's basketball tournament because of the impending war in Iraq, and once argued it would help the U.S.'s world image if the University of Alabama hired a black football coach. More recently, he suggested NFL quarterback Michael Vick's dog fights -- in which losing dogs were drowned or electrocuted -- were no worse than hunting trips.