Black athletes defend their right to bear arms

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(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Is it smart for an athlete to carry a gun for protection? Consider two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Professional boxer Vernon Forrest is driving in Atlanta, with his girlfriend’s 11-year-old son. He stops to put air in a tire and is then robbed at gunpoint. He complies with the robber’s demands and as they leave he grabs a gun from under his seat and gives chase. Gunfire is exchanged and he is eventually shot dead.

Scenario 2: In 2005, professional football player Sean Taylor allegedly pointed a gun at two individuals he believed had stolen two all-terrain vehicles from him and demanded they be returned. Eventually, Taylor lost the “bad boy” image and began to stay out of trouble. In 2007, he was murdered in his Miami home during a home invasion, while his girlfriend and daughter were in the house.

These scenarios illustrate different sides of the “should athletes carry guns?” debate. In the Vernon Forrest case, many could argue that if he did not have a gun, and had let the robbers get away, he would still be alive. On the other hand, if Sean Taylor had a gun, perhaps he could have shot at the intruders – and he would be alive.

Many pro athletes say that, while they should be able to carry guns like everyone else, it is not necessarily the best way to protect themselves.

When New York Giant defensive specialist Justin Tuck hosted a celebrity pool tournament for charity in New York City, athletes, actors and rappers were in attendance, and several felt like they needed protection.

“Trouble is always going to look for you no matter what and that you a celebrity it makes it even worse,” Adalius Thomas said on the red carpet. “You have the rights, just like everybody else has. Just because you’re a celebrity you have the right to obtain what every you need to obtain lawfully.”

He isn’t the only athlete who feels it’s OK to own a gun. Kerry Rhodes of the New York Jets told theGrio: “I do have my license to carry, but if I’m going out, I might as well have security.”

In fact, every celebrity and athlete interviewed said that they would prefer to hire security before carrying guns on their own. But what about when you are not at an event? What about when you are just hanging with your friends? Going on a date? Do you need security then, too?

Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns feels that you can keep trouble away by hanging around the right people. “You’ve got to surround yourself with positive people,” he said. “My circle may be only four guys. They will not let me put myself in a bad situation.”

Actor Anthony Anderson feels that athletes and celebrities are targets and should maintain a low profile. “Unfortunately,” he said. “We have targets on our backs, it’s up to us to insulate ourselves.”

So is that the answer? It’s not realistic that athletes will go straight to their hotel room after every game and never come outside. It’s also not wise to wear jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on your neck in an economy where people are struggling to make ends meet, especially if you are a young black athlete who wants to go back home to the projects. But if athletes should not be confined to their home, how then should they protect themselves when they’re out?

There’s no way to fully eliminate the threat of a robbery, no matter what athletes do, but they can do things to put the odds in their favor. Just like in sports, athletes stretch and warm up before full activity. This doesn’t fully prevent injury but it cuts down on the risk. Knowing when to wear your jewelry, avoiding high crime areas and friends that are into illegal activity, and hiring security when you go out to “high risk” areas are good ways to reduce your chances of getting robbed. More important that having a loaded gun is having common sense.