NBA, NFL Go Anti-Gun

But are they protecting their athletes, or protecting an image?

Last year, Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor got out of bed upon hearing intruders entering his home. The house was situated in a wealthy, gated community on the outskirts of Miami. It was the middle of the night. To protect himself, his girlfriend, and their young child, Taylor grabbed a machete he kept nearby and crept to his bedroom door.

So Taylor, in fear, and concerned for the safety of his family, armed himself with a large knife used to hack away at jungle foliage. The intruder shot and killed him.

Many have asked why Taylor felt it necessary to have a machete nearby, but it's probably worth asking (as his friends and peers in professional sports certainly are), "What if it had been a gun?" Certainly, the outcome may have been different.

Unfortunately, officials in the NFL and the NBA increasingly take a paternalistic attitude toward their athletes. For years, the NFL and the NBA have attempted to distance players from firearms. Some would argue these policies are aimed at a culture that celebrates the criminal use of violent weapons, but the effect is pretty clear: The leagues would rather their players put themselves at risk than protect themselves with guns.

The NFL asks not just that players avoid guns in general, but that they avoid having them even at home. Paul Tagliabue instituted an official league gun policy back in 1994 that discouraged even legally obtained weapons. "Any weapon, particularly a firearm, is dangerous," the policy states, "especially so when it is in a vehicle or within reach of children and others not properly trained in its use."

Roger Goodell, who replaced Tagliabue in the NFL commissioner's office just last year, has already dished out gun-related penalties.When former Chicago Bears tackle Tank Johnson was cited for illegal firearm possession at his suburban Chicago home last year, Goodell didn't wait for the criminal justice system to determine Johnson's guilt. Goodell opted to ban Johnson from the league for half a season. The punishment was in line with an updated league conduct policy that states, "It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a high standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, (and) promotes the values upon which the league is based…."

Johnson, by the standards of the law of the state of Illinois, served only 30 days in jail. This for his third gun-related offense. By NFL standards, he served the equivalent of a half a year.

The NBA takes a similarly hard line. Commissioner David Stern, the short, white, New York native who joined the league's legal department in the 70’s and has been commissioner since 1984, told media in a pre-season conference call, "It's a pretty, I think, widely accepted statistic that if you carry a gun, your chances of being shot by one increase dramatically. We think this is an alarming subject. Although you'll read players saying how they feel safer with guns, in fact those guns actually make them less safe. . . ."

Stern is wrong, though well-versed in anti-gun rhetoric. Washington, D.C., home to Sean Taylor's Redskins, for example, is currently facing a legal challenge to its virtual ban on handguns. For decades the city has had one of the toughest gun-control policies in the country. It has also consistently had one of the highest murder rates.

Pro athletes are targets. They are young, wealthy, famous, and many opt not to abandon the communities where they grew up. They face a different threat and a different reality than halls traversed by the likes of Stern and Goodell. Last summer in Chicago, two high-profile NBA players were robbed at gunpoint in their own homes. Antoine Walker was confronted in his garage, bound with duct tape, and robbed of thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry, as well as his Mercedes. This was in his multi-million dollar Gold Coast home, located in a wealthy, downtown Chicago neighborhood. Weeks later, Eddy Curry was robbed in similar manner at his palatial estate in Burr Ridge, a suburb outside the city.

Police later determined both players had been targetted because of their status as professional athletes. Locally, the Chicago Bulls were forced to issue a statement, warning their own players to take new measures to insure their own security.

Why are they not already?

"Professional athletes, most of us came from the streets," Ben Wallace recently told ESPN.com, responding to the Walker and Curry incidents and Taylor's murder. "We feel like we know the streets and can pretty much protect ourselves. But now we're in a position where we're being targeted, and the stakes are just too high."

Two weeks ago Indiana point guard Jamal Tinsley had his car peppered with bullets at a local night club after a confrontation. Tinsley hasn’t been an Eagle Scout, and he should probably be more aware of the kind of element his celebrity attracts. But he should also be allowed to defend himself. Also late last year, Atlanta forward Shelden Williams was carjacked at gunpoint.

Exacerbating the leagues' willingness to bite on gun control rhetoric is each league's desire to maintain an image. Those in control worry about the way those "streets" and the kill-or-be-killed gang culture can infect their players, some of whom are, literally, only a year or two removed from the streets. The leagues need to sell high-priced tickets to white America. But it's unwise to put the safety of several players at risk in order to protect the leagues' image from the misdeeds of a few. Some players now spend $100,000 a year or more on personal bodyguards, and still don't feel particularly safe.

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  • ||

    I don't know how you can be upset about Sean Taylor and say "Boy, I'm sure am glad he didn't have a gun in his house!"

  • ed||

    CYA, Jason. It's all about CYA.

  • VM||

    wasn't there more to the Sean Taylor story?

    at any rate, so what? the owners of the brands are protecting said brands.

    this or the Kerry NYT piece are really... aw hell.

    Invoke Reason Drinking Game rules #8,9,17,22b,43,67.

  • Bingo||

    a virgual handgun ban

    Virtual Virgil?

  • Bingo||

    Oh I quoted it wrong...


    but it still says virgual which is a pretty neat neologism!

  • ||

    Racist policies; SWAT breaking down home doors on the basis of unqualified government employees wrong opinion's(Music)...Only one cure, one answer...THE LIBERTARIAN MILITA.
    Join or form one NOW.
    Your freedom depends on it.

  • ||

    It always drives me crazy when they slam some athlete for having a gun. It is racist as hell. Some redneck lineman goes hunting and media says nothing. But let a black athlete get caught with a gun in his car and he is immediately branded a thug and a criminal. Gee let's think about this. I am a black man from a really bad background. A lot of the people I knew growing up are very violent and troubled. They all know who I am and where I live and that I have a lot of cash. Gee I wonder why anyone in that position would bother to carry a gun or worry at all about their safety or being robbed?

    When the NFL or NBA and their media toadies talk about doing something about guns, they are really showing their racism and innate fear of young black men. I really wish sometimes that it was more acceptable for people to be overtly racist. Then at least these assholes could be honest about what they really think and just say "we can't let a bunch of rich young coons have guns." Granted it would be pretty ugly and gross, but at least we would know where people stood and what their real feelings were instead of suffereing through the "stop the scourge of guns" bullshit.

  • ed||

    I think a no-strip-joint policy would be more effective.

  • jouer au backgammon||

    I really agree with you.

  • ||

    ... the leagues postures may be more about protecting the NFL and NBA image than about protecting their players.

    I'm shocked! SHOCKED!!!! I never would have believed that a billion dollar sports league would put it's own image and priorities over concern for its players.

    If true, this is a real dog bites man story.

  • ||

    When are we going to get a response to the TNR story about Ron Paul: Angry White Man.

  • ||

    Paging The Mailman...

    Kevin

  • VM||

    Mannish -

    didja see the money quote:

    The people surrounding the von Mises Institute--including Paul--may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine.



    heh

    Chicago - amen, brother!

  • ||

    But let a black athlete get caught with a gun in his car and he is immediately branded a thug and a criminal

    Isn't carrying a handgun around in your car without a conceal/carry permit a crime?

    Isn't hunting not usually a crime?

    Look I agree with the sentiments to an extent. Rich people are at a level risk whenever they go out in public. But the law is the law. They shouldn't be excused from obeying the law because they are rich. Get the fucking permit if it's available or hire a bodyguard.

    And I don't that it's a race based thing. Didn't an ex coach of the Dallas Cowboys get arrested for trying to bring his gun on to an airplane in his carry on a few years back. And he was treated in a similar manner. I think the issue is more about an aversion to carrying weapons by media people and opinion publishers than it is about the race of the people involved

  • ||

    Rich people are at a level risk

    Should be :

    Rich people face a higher risk

  • Episiarch||

    I'm unclear on why the NFL thinks it can have any fucking say on what players keep in their homes.

  • ||

    Here near Belpre Ohio you almost never hear of a home invasion.I can think of one about 9 years ago.The home owner shot both intruders with his shotgun.I live outside town and and take comfort in knowing my 12 gauge O/U with 3 inch #2 shot is close by.

  • ||

    Gun ownership policies in the NFL and the NBA are the province of the leagues and the players unions. The question I would ask as a fan - Is this wise? Anecdotes aside, is there any evidence that pro atheletes are more/less likely to be the victims/perpetrators of firearm related crime than their non athlete peers. Does the professional athlete, young, often from a poor background, and suddenly wealthy, even have peers to measure against?

    All I've got to go on is gut feelings. I'm well aware of how unreliable those are for decision making.

    My "take with a grain of salt" advice - Buy a gun. Learn to use it. Respect, even fear it. Stay away from stripper bars. Last, but not least, atheletes play half their games on the road. They can't take their gun with you on a road trip. Avoiding dangerous situations is strongly recommended.

  • Bingo||

    MannishBoy:

    I don't see where the proof is that he wrote them, I just see a lot of speculation and "Ron Paul likes this idea and the von Mises group does too and these crazy racists like some of the ideas of the von Mises group therefore Ron Paul is a nutjob too!"

  • ed||

    I just crossed Michael off my home invasion list.

  • ||

    WTF? I had to re-read the first line of this about 10 times...The NFL/NBA are migrating towards an anti-gun policy...You mean on the field/court? Huh? Off-field/court? That is their private time, leave 'em be...Jeebus this is stupid...

  • ed||

    I personally would find the NFL more interesting if guns were allowed on the field.

  • ||

    Isn't carrying a handgun around in your car without a conceal/carry permit a crime?



    It depends on the state. In some states, you can have a loaded firearm in your vehicle without a carry permit. In others, you have to have a permit.

  • ed||

    The snap...Oh my! Favre is cut down by a vicious head-shot!

  • ||

    That is their private time, leave 'em be...Jeebus this is stupid...

    If you smoke tobacco at home, you lose your job. If you have a firearm at home, you lose your job. The diference is ???

  • ||

    I'm unclear on why the NFL thinks it can have any fucking say on what players keep in their homes.

    Last I checked, doesn't a private employer have a right to restrict the actions of its employees in order to protect the integrity of the brand ?
    Isn't the official Libertarian position that a private league is free to set whatever rules it wants on its players who have voluntarily chosen to be employed.

  • ||

    Ray Lewis sure didn't need a gun.

  • ||

    Tom-

    I suppose if you include "no guns" as part of their contractual obligations, you'd have a point.

    Of course, if the NFL/NBA did that, then it strikes me as obvious that they are then complicit in any of the deaths of their players that might have otherwise been prevented via the defensive use of a firearm.

  • ||

    er, the first "you" in my post should read "they."

  • R C Dean||

    Isn't carrying a handgun around in your car without a conceal/carry permit a crime?

    I believe its legal to have an otherwise legal unloaded and cased handgun in your car in every state.

    If you have a carry permit, you can have it loaded and accessible.

    For the gray areas (what about loaded and inaccessible? Unloaded and accessible?) it varies by state.

  • Episiarch||

    It depends on the state. In some states, you can have a loaded firearm in your vehicle without a carry permit. In others, you have to have a permit.

    And in Alaska and Vermont, you don't need a permit at all to carry, have in your car, etc.

  • ||

    Surely those states are bloodbaths! Gunfight at the OK Coral! Blood running through the streets!

    AIIIEEEEE!

  • LibertyPlease||

    It depends on the state. In some states, you can have a loaded firearm in your vehicle without a carry permit. In others, you have to have a permit.



    In Texas the governor made it explicitly legal to keep a loaded gun in your home, car, or place of business. (It has always been legal to have it loaded in the car while "traveling" but the police would still harass you)

  • LibertyPlease||

    .... without a permit that is.

  • VM||

    "mediageek | January 8, 2008, 4:48pm | #
    Surely those states are bloodbaths! Gunfight at the OK Coral! Blood running through the streets!

    AIIIEEEEE!"


    *rolls around and schmears the blood all over. then runs naked into a silo*

    GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    :)


    "It has always been legal to have it loaded in the car while "traveling" but the police would still harass you)"

    it is ever thus.

  • R C Dean||

    It has always been legal to have it loaded in the car while "traveling" but the police would still harass you

    And if you also have a copy of the Constitution, they get all SWAT on your ass.

  • ||

    I agree that this isn't much of a race issue unless you really make it out to be, but I can believe that handgun bans in places like Chicago affect blacks more for sure.

    As ChicagoTom said, the leagues do, I believe, have the right to say that their players can't own guns if it wants to. I'm not sure on the legality of this and the second amendment though, but I'm pretty sure it's kosher.

    I'm not American but can you agree to sign away your constitutional rights for a job ? I'd say yes because confidentiality agreements inhibit the First and they're ok.

    That being said, the leagues then should have a responsibility to protect its players if they can't protect themselves. I smell a lawsuit in the making.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "Isn't the official Libertarian position that a private league is free to set whatever rules it wants on its players who have voluntarily chosen to be employed."

    Sure they can, but why shouldn't people also be able to have an oppinion about their policies? The libertarian position is more like this: a business is free to set its own policies, but people are also free to disagree with them and take coresponding action such as writing a critical article, boycotting, or starting a competing business.

  • LarryA||

    I think a no-strip-joint policy would be more effective.

    Yeah. Because one of the five cited incidents took place outside a "club." (No reference to stripping.) Three of the five took place in the athletes' homes.

    Isn't carrying a handgun around in your car without a conceal/carry permit a crime?

    In most states, including Texas where I live, no it isn't. http://opencarry.org/

    Last, but not least, athletes play half their games on the road. They can't take their gun with them on a road trip.

    I can legally carry concealed in 30 out of the 50 states with my Texas concealed handgun license. There are several other states where I can open carry without a license. Taking my handgun along when I fly commercially is a simple procedure of locking it unloaded in my checked baggage and declaring it at the ticket counter. With a charter flight that isn't even necessary.

    I'd also bet that if the leagues announced a "we're going to encourage our players to get CHLs" policy the remaining states would fall all over themselves to carve out an exemption allowing them to carry. Look at the gun policies of New York City and Los Angeles County in reference to celebrities.

    Police later determined both players had been targeted because of their status as professional athletes.

    In this case targeted for robbery. But athletes, particularly football players can also be targeted by brawlers who would love to have the chance to beat up a star. The knowledge that some of the players had CHLs could deter such behavior.

  • ||

    " a private league is free to set whatever rules it wants "

    Sure, and we're free to criticize them. What's your point?

    -jcr

  • ||

    Windtell,

    I believe that courts would strike down a contract in which one party gives up a constitutional right as contrary to public policy. You can't be held to a contract for indentured servitude, for example.

    -jcr

  • ||

    I would also say it depends on if it is job related.Non-disclosure pertains to speech involving your job.Your right to speech other wise is not affected.Many teams disallow risky things like skydiving and motor bikes because of injury.They can't take away a right in total.I know some jobs disallow smoking,yet pay for the employee health care giving them a say since the pay the bill.Their must be a direct link to the job and behavior.Not a political or moral stance for other wise legal behavior.Other wise you could have all your employees join the same church or vote the same party.

  • Mr. Bingley||

    Sean Taylor may not be the best example for your argument, valid as it may be, as he specifically was barred from having a gun in a plea bargain to get felony assault charges (involving, oddly enough, a gun) dropped. The NFL suits weren't involved in this.

  • ||

    The NBA and NFL have condoned and even protected the thug culture for many years now. It is only now when they see possible disruption to their cash flows that they express a veneer of interest.

    I bailed out on pro sports years ago - a combination of the thug culture, owners trying to milk the taxpayer, and across he board greed effectively killed my interest in these prima donna cretins.

  • Lefty||

    Well the NFL as a private entity has every right to expressly promote the kind of behavior (gun-free or whatever). If the players don't like it they can start their own league with covenants that say gun ownership is OK. What's wrong with this? Don't want to be owned go out and start a league. That's what libertarians believe in the primacy of private enterprise wisdom. Am I not right?

  • ||

    Lefty,no your not.My dad grew up in a coal mining town with a company store.Everything had to be bought there.They controlled the miners life.Just because you work for someone does not mean the employer can dictate all areas of your life.You give up certain rights when you walk through their doors to work ,yes.You also have rights on you own property.As for the NFL,they are a tax supported monopoly[stadiums and a free minor league in the NCAA] who's contracts are very one sided.Not libertarian in any form,

  • B||

    "Commissioner David Stern, the short, white, New York native who joined the league's legal department in the 70's..."

    Evidently, David Stern's race and height are somehow relevant, I just haven't figured out why.

  • ||

    The PROBLEM for the NFL and the NBA is that they are mostly Black organizations, and statistically, a given Black is FAR AND AWAY more likely to be involved in a crime than any given gun is. So, the NFL's and the NBA's position may have some validity, as long as the players don't mind losing their rights. However, as a Jewess in the US, I say we must all put our 2nd Amendment FIRST!

  • sfcmac||

    All Taylor had to defend himself against a gun wielding criminal was a machette??? Well, at least the imbeciles at the NBA and NFL won't be mad at him for owning a gun....

  • ||

    "J sub D | January 8, 2008, 4:03pm | #

    That is their private time, leave 'em be...Jeebus this is stupid...

    If you smoke tobacco at home, you lose your job. If you have a firearm at home, you lose your job. The diference is ???"

    One of those products, when used as directed, is constitutionaly protected and will save your life... You figure it out.

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