Athletes & Guns – Not an Issue of Race

There’s been a bit of unspoken racism going on with regard to the whole guns-and-athletes issue for some time now, if you ask me.

Lets look at high profile cases: First, there was NBA star Jayson Williams, who shot and killed a limo driver in 2002. Then came Plaxico Burress, who was bumpin around a club when a gun in his waistband went off and sent the wide receiver to the hospital. Most recently we had the case of Gilbert Arenas in Washington, who allegedly brought guns into the locker room in a scene reminiscent of the wild west.

What do all of these athletes have in common? They’re African-Americans. That made it easy for some writers and much of white America to secretly whisper to each other about what a bunch of thugs these sports had. And, with basketball and football, featuring so many black players, it seemed like it was easy to just chalk it up to the whole blinged-out hip-hop culture of the sports and their stars.

But, hold the phone. As it turns out, black athletes aren’t the only athletes, or people, who like their guns and who don’t understand that there is a place for them and places where they shouldn’t be.

After the danger and bad publicity brought on by Arenas, Major League Baseball made official something that seems like a common sense move: No guns in the clubhouse.

We’ve seen managers throw phones across rooms, and players confront managers and other players after losses and wins. So, you would think it would be pretty obvious that you don’t want to have guns in a place that sometimes houses such hostility. And lets not even get into ‘roid rage.

But not all of the MLB players agree. And, surprise, some of them are white. We wont call them rednecks, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck.

Ryan Franklin of the St. Louis Cardinals was one of the first players to openly question the policy. In February, he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “If you grew up around it, being in the outdoors and stuff, I was taught as a young kid to respect firearms. First of all, you don’t get stupid with it. Always treat a gun like it’s loaded. That’s what I taught my son and daughters.

There are a few guys that screwed it up for everybody. If it wasn’t for the NFL guy a couple years ago bringing a weapon into a nightclub… you’ve just got to be smart.”

Maybe the quote has been taken out of context; maybe he just meant that guns are dangerous and hell, maybe hes just not real bright.

If Franklin was feeling a little lonely in his gun-toting views, he got some company last week when Baltimore Orioles outfielder Luke Scott piled on. Scott, who admits that hes been rolling into the clubhouse packing heat for years, told the Baltimore Sun last week, “I don’t think that everyone else should be pay for the mistakes of a few. There is a good reason behind the rule, I can’t deny that. The reason is you cannot trust 25 guys in a locker room to have the same respect and training as I do with a weapon. That I do understand. I’ve carried a gun for 10 years. I’ve carried them in the locker room and nobody really knows about it. I know how to handle myself and I stow it away where nobody really knows about it.”

Yea, its too bad more people don’t understand gun safety as well as you do, Luke, because then I am sure there would be no problems whatsoever.

Simply having guns around a volatile, testosterone-fueled environment is not safe and it puts players in harms way. Not to mention the fact that no matter how much gun safety you practice, guns can still be involved in very serious accidents.

I am not writing about the rights to own and carry weapons. The Constitution is fairly clear on that, but it has also become very clear that guns can lead to tragedy no matter what color you are.

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