April 24, 2018

American Sports’ Deeply Rooted Gun Problem

Aaron Lavitsky ‘19
Image result for football guns

Gun culture is deeply rooted in American society. Hunting has been a sport for many Americans for years and, while it is not as widely popular as other American sports, it goes hand-in-hand with the team sports many love. Although not evident to most, the most popular American team sports – professional basketball and football, especially – have a profound effect on gun society in America.
Former all-star guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended from the NBA in 2009 for pulling a gun on his teammate in the Washington Wizards’ locker room. Arenas has since denied he pulled a gun, but he also cites the overwhelming gun culture in sports as part of his defense. Arenas has pointed out several times on record that many athletes carry guns with them to games and he proclaims that if you searched an NBA locker room today, you would find at least one such weapon.
Clearly, Arenas’s claim sheds light on the gun culture within American sports society. This is not only true for basketball, however, as several other instances of athletes using guns in and out of their work environments have been recorded.
Of all the popular American team sports, football has the largest effect on gun society in America. According to USA Today, three of every four NFL players own guns. Several NFL players hunt during the offseason, often doing so with teammates.
So why is there a large amount of gun ownership in the football community?
First of all, football players wish to protect themselves. Because of the murder and robbery of the late Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor, football players have began to more frequently purchase weapons for self defense.
Football, being a seasonal sport, is only played from late September to February. That means an NFL player has a minimum of about a six month off season and that is only for those whose teams make it to the Super Bowl. This allows for a lot of free time, thus allowing players to spend time on their hobbies, including hunting and gun collection.
Another reason football has such a popular hunting culture is that a large amount of its player come from places where hunting is common. Football is played in every state and many NFL players come from southern or midwestern states where hunting is more widespread.
Carson Wentz, starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, is one of the many NFL players who often hunts. Wentz comes from South Dakota, where he and his brothers run a YouTube channel showing off videos of them hunting. Wentz’s teammate, Fletcher Cox, also hunts often and the two have done so together. They both enjoy hunting and stated that doing so together, along with other teammates, creates comradery and a way to have fun outside of football.
One can, however, see the effect this presumably innocuous gun hobby Wentz and other players have has on those who follow their careers.
On February 14, the day of the tragic Parkland shooting that killed 17, Wentz tweeted out a photo of him and his fiancee hunting together. The tweet was in no way related to the Parkland shooting, nor was it supporting gun violence in any way, however some still took offense to it. People responded to Wentz, saying the tweet was insensitive and untimely. Wentz, agreed apologized, reassuring his followers he in no way intended to support the horrible acts of the Parkland shooter.
Athletes have also taken steps to denounce gun culture. Whether it be NBA coaches and players like Steve Kerr or Steve Nash, or even other football players, several athletes have stood up and spoken against gun rights and gun violence.
In April 2016, former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith was shot dead after an altercation with another driver over a car accident. Saints Coach Sean Payton, Smith’s former coach, spoke out against gun violence, even though Louisiana is predominantly a pro-gun state: “I hate guns,” Payton said. “I’ve heard people argue that everybody needs a gun. That’s madness.”

Payton’s remarks reflect the recent exposure of sports’ affect on gun culture in America. Several people idolize athletes. These athletes’ personal decisions, even though they are outside of their normal sports spotlight, have a profound effect on society and while even athletes themselves often disagree about the role of guns in America, it is time to recognize the effect gun culture in sports has on the country.

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