MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - When tragedies struck Kansas City’s NFL team on Saturday, December 1, it sparked a new national debate over gun control.
That debate was fueled by two members of the national sports community.
Jason Whitlock is a national columnist for Fox Sports.com. When Jovan Belcher turned into a murderer, Whitlock spoke out against guns, creating his own controversy that has resonated in the Mid-South.
“I try to take advantage of the opportunity to talk about the rest of the world when sport lends itself to that,” said Whitlock, “and try to open people’s eyes.”
The Kansas City tragedy certainly allowed for some eye-opening.
“We’ve got shorts fired,” said a KC police officer on a 9-1-1 call, “self-inflicted; one in the head, get in here.”
It was the unthinkable - a Chiefs player killed his girlfriend, then himself, putting Whitlock in an anti-gun mode.
“I believe the NRA is the new KKK,” Whitlock said.
But members of the Mid-South gun community disagreed with the analogy.
“They’re more about hatred,” said Jeff Duncan, “I mean, hatred has nothing to do with guns.”
Duncan is the owner of the Gun Exchange in Olive Branch.
“The KKK is all hatred, they hate everybody,” said Richard Yoder, “and that was just a wrong comparison to me.”
Yoder is the manager of the Gun Exchange.
Whitlock’s stance prompted Bob Costas to quote him on Sunday Night Football.
“Here, wrote Jason Whitlock,” said Costas on the air, “is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Cassandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
And with that, Costas created more controversy.
“I think you can have your own personal opinion,” said Memphian Martha Bowman, “but if you are going to bring it onto the national stage, it is the wrong place to do it.”
“It was very sad that Mr. Costas decided to politicize this incident,” Duncan told abc24.com.
Costas received his share of online criticism. A online commenter wrote: “When sportscasters start talking about things other than sports their stupidity really shows.”
“He was way out of line saying anything like that.” said Yoder.
As for the Whitlock comment that resonated the most strongly in the Mid-South: “I believe the NRA is the new KKK,” Arlington, Tennessee resident Ida Bryant said, “KKK had nothing to do with that, I disagree.”
“Actually,” said Yoder, “I think he’s an idiot.”
For those who believe a gun enhances their liberty, Whitlock wrote: “It doesn’t.”
Mid-South residents who spoke with abc24.com all agreed we should have the right to bear arms, while at the same time admitting it was an un-winnable argument.