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Did Costas overstep his bounds with gun comments?

Did Costas overstep his bounds with gun comments?

NEW YORK (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.

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.

Meanwhile, everyone is talking, with Costas only one among the chattering multitude. And that, of course, means there's a danger of less and less time being set aside for listening.

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EDITOR'S NOTE - Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and athttp://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Just how deep is Washington's blue line?

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Just how deep is Washington's blue line?

It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Douglas F. writes: Now that we traded away Matt Niskanen will Nick Jensen be paired with Dmitry Orlov? I personally would like to see how Jonas Siegenthaler would do beside him. My ideal defensive pairings: John Carlson/Michal Kempny, Jonas Siegenthaler/Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen (or Radko Gudas)/ Christian Djoos. Would that make sense?

What you have to consider is the shooting side of each player. Michal Kempny, Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler and Christian Djoos are left-shot defensemen while John Carlson, Nick Jensen and Radko Gudas are all right-shot defensemen. I don’t see the team putting two leftys together in the top four. Right-shot defensemen are harder to find and the Caps have three of them. That is a luxury not every team gets and I do not see Washington going into the season with a plan to willingly giving up that advantage.

Brian MacLellan telegraphed his feelings on Jensen when he traded for him and re-signed him for four years before he ever put on a Caps jersey. They see him as a top-four and that is where they are going to use him.

Granted, if Jensen struggles then pretty much all options are on the table so perhaps we could see this possibility later in the season.

I also get your point on Siegenthaler. I liked him a lot last season. I was surprised it took four games to get him into the playoffs and I was not surprised to see him move up to the top pairing after that. For now, however, putting him on the third pair with Gudas makes the most sense to me not just because of his inexperience but because of the guys ahead of him.

Paul O. writes: With the glut of young defensemen in the prospect pool, along with good ones moving fast in Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary, has the team soured on Connor Hobbs and Lucas Johansen ever making the jump to the big club?

I am not sure “soured” would be the right word for it as I think this has more to do with how impressed the team has been with Alexeyev and Fehervary than any negative feelings towards Hobbs and Williams.

Hobbs was a fifth-round draft pick who has shown that he may have had more potential than initially thought and could reach the NHL, but he was always going to be a third-pairing type of player so it is no surprise to see highly touted prospects like Alexeyev and Fehervary push for the NHL before Hobbs makes it there. His defense has improved tremendously, but the offensive skill that made him a standout in the WHL has not translated to the AHL as of yet. Johansen was hampered greatly by an upper-body injury last season and looks very jumpy with the puck on his stick which is not good news for a player in whom puck-moving was supposed to be a major part of his game.

The bigger concern of the two would be Johansen as he is a first-round pick. That means the team saw him as being a significant NHL contributor and I do not think they would have anticipated him getting passed on the depth chart before reaching the NHL. Hobbs, however, was always going to be a long-shot as a fifth-rounder.

To me, the greater takeaway is not that the team has soured on anyone, but that they are so high on both Alexeyev and Fehervary. Hopefully the other two will continue to develop and eventually catch up, but the silver-lining is you have at least two defensemen the team seems pretty confident can compete for an NHL spot in the near future.

Luka K. writes: Hershey has eight defensemen who all deserve and need to play (Erik Burgdoerfer, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen, Colby Williams, Alex Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Tobias Geisser, Tyler Lewington and probably Bobby Nardella)? Who is deemed surplus, an ECHL ticket or possible trade for forward prospect?

In addition to the nine you mentioned, Hershey also has Tommy Hughes and Kristofers Bindulis. That gives the Bears 11 defensemen which should make for a crowded blue line even for the AHL where teams carry more players. Of those nine, Burgdoerfer and Hughes are the only two not under contract with the Caps and are playing on AHL contracts with Hershey.

I would assume Bindulis is headed to the ECHL. He played in only four games for the Bears last season and 12 the season before with 34 games in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays. He certainly looks like the odd-man out. Hughes played last season in Europe, but was with Hershey in 2017-18 and spent the majority of that season in the ECHL. I could easily see him head there this year as well, though I expect Hershey wanted him and Burgdoerfer as veterans to help the younger guys.

Speaking of the younger guys, if they are struggling with the transition and are not getting much playing time, they may get a tour in South Carolina, but the Caps will want to see their top prospects in action and I imagine most of those players will stick around in Hershey.

The only one I could potentially see eventually being on the trade block is Johansen. As a first-round pick, he still could have some trade value. When you start getting passed on the team’s depth chart, it does not take long before your trade value surpasses your on-ice value.

Brian D. writes: Can you please explain the Connor McMichael signing? He’s not going to crack the Caps roster this year and he’s too young to play in the AHL so it’s almost guaranteed he’s going back to juniors this year. So why pay a salary to a player (and burn years off his entry level contract) to play in juniors the next two years? Why not wait till he’s ready to play professional hockey to start paying him and using his entry level contract years?

Barring a miraculous performance in training camp, no, Connor McMichael is not going to make the NHL roster this year. You are also correct in that he is still with his junior team so, by rule, he cannot play in the AHL. He can either play in the NHL or the OHL this season, there are no other options. The good news, however, is that McMichael is not going to burn a year off his contract.

Because most players require more development before they reach the NHL, entry-level contracts slide so as not to punish a team for its patience. So long as McMichael does not play 10 NHL games next season, he will not burn the first year of his contract and will not earn a salary. The only money he will be paid is his signing bonus. There are rules as to when an unsigned draft pick becomes a free agent and when some players get close to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, they elect to wait it out and head into free agency. Signing these players to NHL contracts early in their careers when they are excited about getting drafted is much easier than waiting until they start to think the grass may be greener on the other side.

So why not just immediately sign every draft pick to a contract and let them continuously slide until you need them thus avoiding losing them to free agency? Because teams are limited to only 50 contracts and teams could quickly run out of room to sign or trade for more players they may desperately need. The Caps ran into this issue last season. With 50 players already under contract, the team could not sign highly touted prospect Chase Priskie who has declared he will wait until Aug. 15 when he will become a free agent. If the team could have signed Priskie at the end of his college season last year and brought him right away to the AHL or NHL it could potentially have enticed him to sign. Instead the Caps now stand to lose him for nothing.

So I hear you, Brian, but there is no reason to fear. Now the Caps have McMichael signed and do not have to worry about him holding out for free agency several years from now, but they also are not losing any contract years.

Phillip M. writes: With the Seattle Expansion Draft approaching and the Caps having signed most of their key players through the next 2 years I have a question. NHL teams can protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie, or any 8 skaters plus 1 goalie. I understand first and second year NHL players, and unsigned draft choices are exempt. So I assume that means signed non-NHL playing draft choices can be selected. Are Alex Alexeyev, Connor McMichael, Brett Leason and Ilya Samsonov available to be selected by Seattle? Who do you expect the team will most likely protect?

What qualifies as first and second-year players to the NHL is players who have finished at least two seasons of professional North American play. I explained above how a player burns the first year of his entry-level contract. With the expansion draft two years away, that means any prospects who remain with their junior teams at least through this season will not qualify not have to worry about the expansion draft including McMichael.

Ilya Samsonov already burned the first year of his contract last season and with Alexeyev and Leason expected to play in Hershey this season, all three will likely qualify for the expansion draft..

It is really hard to project between now and 2021, but if you insist:

Seven forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana, Lars Eller, Brett Leason

Three defensemen: John Carlson, Jonas Siegenthaler, Alex Alexeyev

Goalie: Ilya Samsonov

Don’t hold me to this, a lot can happen in two years.

John F. writes: Will an enterprising team owner (with deep pockets) ever consider building an outdoor arena designed specifically for hockey? Sticking an outdoor game in a baseball or football stadium seems like a bad way to watch a hockey game.

I can’t see this ever happening. Maintaining a playable ice surface is incredibly hard to do inside in an arena. When you put it outside, you are greatly complicating things. The league does a great job with its outdoor games, but this is just for one game. Building an entire stadium for the limited number of Winter Classics and Stadium Series games it would host would not be feasible. If you are suggesting a team could have all its home games outdoors, this would be a nightmare in terms of maintaining the ice surface for the full season especially when the weather gets warm. Heaven forbid you try to have a playoff game there.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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Nationals Roundup: Nats' bullpen spoils Erick Fedde's economical outing

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Nationals Roundup: Nats' bullpen spoils Erick Fedde's economical outing

The Battle of the Beltway Series finale didn't go as planned for the Nationals in Baltimore Wednesday night. Washington settles for a series split and falls to 50-44 following its 9-2 loss to the Orioles. 

Consider these news and notes as Davey Martinez's club heads south for a pivotal four-game weekend series in Atlanta. 

Player Notes:

Can you say economical? Erick Fedde cruised through six innings inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards on just 66 pitches (40 strikes). The 26-year-old surrendered just one run on five hits while striking out two. 

Very quietly, Adam Eaton is hitting .330 over his last 29 games and has reached base safely in 73 of 89 games in 2019. His third-inning sacrifice fly brought in Victor Robles, and a fifth-inning double -- his 12th of the season -- brought in Trea Turner. 

To put it quite simply, the Nationals' bullpen imploded Wednesday night following Fedde's exit. Wander Suero recorded just one out while allowing three runs, three hits and walking one Oriole. Just nine of his 19 pitches were thrown for strikes. Javy Guerra and Matt Grace then went on to allow a combined three runs on six hits, and Baltimore never looked back.  

Injuries: 

SP Max Scherzer: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Jonny Venters: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 18

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 16

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, Expected to be out until at least Aug 7

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 17

Coming Up:

Thursday 7/18: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park

Friday 7/19: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Saturday 7/20: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

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