If Costas played politics for 90 seconds Sunday night, it was on a much reduced scale than those examples.
Yet many people "insist that an NFL broadcast is supposedly a sacrosanct and therefore apolitical space that must remain free of 'hot-button issues,'" noted David Sirota in a Salon column on Tuesday. "But, then, in commenting on the Kansas City Chiefs murder-suicide, Costas was merely weighing in on the biggest NFL story of the day, which is exactly what he's paid to do and what typically happens during an NFL halftime show."
Were Costas' reflections on when "ugly reality intrudes upon our games" really so intrusive and outrageous?
Did his status as a professional commentator really disqualify him from sharing a thought about a tragedy that millions of his fellow Americans were talking about?
Should he really lose his job? (That was an opinion voiced on Fox News Channel.)
"What I was talking about here — and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear to everybody — was a gun culture," Costas said in an appearance on MSNBC's "Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" on Tuesday. "I never mentioned the Second Amendment. I never used the words 'gun control.' People inferred that."
Even so, it may be that Costas crossed a line by bringing politics into his football coverage.
But it wasn't the first time a hot-button issue had been pressed in a sports broadcast. In 2003, conservative radio superstar Rush Limbaugh resigned from a brief stint on the panel of ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown." His departure followed his race-tinged comments about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"Sports people say they don't want any politics involved," Limbaugh said in a Tuesday commentary addressing the Costas affair (where he cracked "I don't blame Bob Costas. I blame the microphone").