League downplays estimated percentages of gun ownership by NFL players

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Earlier this week, in the aftermath of the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy explained on The Dan Patrick Show that Dungy typically would ask his players at the outset of training camp whether they own guns.

Roughly 65 of the 80 players would raise their hands.  That’s more than 80 percent.

A story in Friday’s USA Today cites similar estimates from players, putting the number in the range of 70-to-80 percent.

Redskins receiver Brandon Banks, who doesn’t own a gun and arguably could have used one when he was being stabbed last year, puts the number at 70 percent.  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger pegs the number at 75-to-80 percent.  Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen guesses it’s in the range of 70-to-80 percent.

The league seems to be in denial.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello characterizes the numbers from folks like Dungy, Banks, Roethlisberger, and Paulsen as a “wild guess.”  NFL V.P. of player engagement Troy Vincent similarly downplayed the estimates.

“You’ll hear people say, 80 [percent]-90 [percent], 20 [percent].  How do you know that?” Vincent said.  “We don’t ask that question. That’s personal information. . . .  [But] we’re not naive by any stretch of the imagination.”

Aiello said the league urges players not to own guns.  But many believe that their fame and their money makes having a gun necessary for protection.  In 2008, ESPN the Magazine took a thorough look at the dynamic in the wake of the murder of Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was shot in his own home.  Taylor didn’t have a gun.

Several months before Taylor was killed, former Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson endured a home invasion by armed criminals.

“I’m young.  I have money.  I have what they want,” Robinson said at the time.  “I definitely felt targeted, just like everyone in my position is a target.

“The hardest part was that it involved my family.  My son was 2, my daughter 4 or 5 months.  I wanted to run, then I wanted to fight.  But you can’t react like Scarface in the movies, go nuts and still get out of the situation alive — this is real life.  As tough as I think I am, I had to give it up, get down on the floor and do everything they asked.  You can defend yourself by fighting or by thinking.  I chose thinking.

“What let me know I wasn’t going to die was they kept calling me by my first name. I saw them looking at my face, then back to the football pictures on the wall, then one of the guys was like, ‘You’re a good player, so I’m not going to kill you.'”

Many of us weigh the pros and cons of owning a gun, and few of us are confronted with the same issues that NFL players face when trying to strike that delicate balance between the sense of security that comes from packing heat and the risks associated with the presence of a firearm.  If we were, a high percentage of us would likely choose having deadly force available for the protection of ourselves and our families.

62 responses to “League downplays estimated percentages of gun ownership by NFL players

  1. You sound almost in agreement with players’ choosing to own guns. Costas is probably going to spank you for that on Sunday.

  2. I buy the 75%. Honestly I think a large percentage of that is because it’s guys like Jared Allen who is a hunter.
    And then there is the chunk of guys who own them to be “gangster” or tough guys.

  3. “Redskins receiver Brandon Banks, who doesn’t own a gun and arguably could have used one when he was being stabbed last year”

    No, he couldn’t have, because he was at a nightclub in DC, where guns are prohibited.

  4. Most certainly. At the very least, 70% IMO. Some of them shouldn’t have guns or at least nearly the amount that they do, but a lot probably have them for good reasons.

  5. IMO, everyone who is legally allowed to own a gun should. The criminals will find a way to get their hands on them even if they aren’t legally allowed. Protect yourself and your family.

  6. It’s the constitutional right of every American to own a gun. Case closed.

    BTW, if anyone wants to investigate the causes of violence in our society, you might begin by examining the breakdown of the American family and the impact on children (boys in particular) of growing up without a father to provide discipline and guidance.

  7. I find myself more in the camp in favor of gun control, but if it’s legal to own a gun as it is now, who cares how many players have one? They’re allowed to have them. Leave it alone.

  8. Seeing as it’s a civil right, what business does the league even have to ask? You cannot discriminate because of race, sex or religion, so why ask about this particular civil right so don’t like you to have? It may be illegal just to ask.

  9. The culture of these NFL players that feel they need a gun just put themselves in more likely position to be involved in a shooting. WHY? Makes no sense to the common man, that is your fan base going to these games. When we hear of a NFL player taking a gun to a night club and shooting yourself, we find it a laughing situation. The problems lies in the fact they could be shooting other people. Why put yourself in a position to not only have a gun on your position let alone then forced to use it simply because you are carrying a gun.

  10. I have lived in several states over the last 25 years. I would say that if you asked the same question at any of the places that I worked you would have at least 80% of the people there say that they had a firearm at home. I don’t really see a reason why athletes would be different.

  11. “You’ll hear people say, 80 [percent]-90 [percent], 20 [percent]. How do you know that?”

    Ummmmm. I didnt hear anyone say 20%, but nice to try to slip that in. Comical.

  12. Who cares if its 100%? It’s legal and within their rights to own guns. Here we go again, one psycho shoots up his gf and here come the gun control nuts. Look at what happend in the Netherlands the guy killed like 80 people. If one person in the group was carrying concealed he or she could’ve stopped him but guns are completely illegal there so that pretty much insures ONLY the criminals have guns. Which is exactly the reason gun control doesn’t work. The right to bear arms is not to protect us from criminals or for hunting its to protect us from OUR OWN government.

  13. When your well known, and your salary is known publicly, you have a higher tendency to have run ins with knuckleheads. Why not have the means of protection?

  14. It’s not like they are high profile targets or anything. We haven’t seen players on ESPN documentaries talking about being a big target for thieves. Shall we forget Sean Taylor that quickly? If they have the gun legally who cares? It is literally their right.

  15. everyone should own a gun, and be required to take gun safety courses at regular intervals by law. guns don’t kill people… people kill people. any law abiding citizen should have a gun… it is their right. those with criminal records should be heavily scrutinized, or denied altogether.

  16. arrowhead816 says:

    When your well known, and your salary is known publicly, you have a higher tendency to have run ins with knuckleheads. Why not have the means of protection?


    They should have protection, but carrying a gun themselves is a bad choice. Either nothing will happen that will require them to use the gun (which is like not having it) or they will shoot someone and end up in buried in legal proceedings even if it was justified. Nothing good can come from it. Having a body guard that carries a gun makes more sense for times where they may run into idiots. Its really meant to be a deterrent, not to actually use it.

  17. puresickness12 says:Dec 7, 2012 10:58 AM

    “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”


    True… and people who lack the responsibility required to own and operate a hand gun shoudn’t be walking around with them. It’s too easy for these guys to do the wrong thing if a gun right there and available. If they handled the guns properly and understood and respected them, it wouldn’t even be an issue.

  18. It’s everyone’s right and duty to protect themselves and their loved ones from harm.

    Buy a quality gun, learn how to use it proficiently, get your concealed handgun license, and carry your gun everywhere you legally can.

    You’re an American. Take responsibility for yourself. The cops will arrive when it’s time to write a report…and not before.

    If you are Canadien, you can throw snowballs, I guess…

  19. I respect Robinson’s right to make his own decisions, but relying on the mercy of criminals to stay alive won’t be the choice I make.

  20. Why the heck should the league be “in denial” or urge players not to own guns? Gun ownership is legal in all 50 states, not to mention a constitutional right, and defensive gun uses occur thousands of times a year. If Dunta Robinson prefers putting his life and the lives of his families in the hands of the animals who invaded his home, that’s his business. But for many people their lives are too precious to leave to the whims of criminals. I’ll defend myself if and when the need ever arises, and a firearm is the best tool for doing that. What the league should do is urge players who own guns to take gun safety and training courses of the type given by the NRA. Owning a firearm without training is horribly irresponsible.

  21. The league should NOT be urging “players not to own guns.” Instead, the league should adopt a neutral policy on private gun ownership. The decision to own a gun is strictly a personal one, and if an NFL player chooses to exercise a right that falls within the scope of Second Amendment protection, then that’s the player’s business, and nobody else’s.

  22. donterrelli says:
    Dec 7, 2012 10:30 AM
    “Redskins receiver Brandon Banks, who doesn’t own a gun and arguably could have used one when he was being stabbed last year”

    No, he couldn’t have, because he was at a nightclub in DC, where guns are prohibited.


    Yeah, because people never bring guns illegally into nightclubs.

  23. How funny that the league is in such denial their players owning guns. What else do you want them to do in Green Bay in the offseason? It’s not like they have a resort out there.

  24. I don’t own a gun, but I believe very strongly in the right to own a gun. The NFL can advise players all it wants not to own guns, but it’s their choice whether or not they want to have one in their home. If I was an NFL player, I would definitely own a gun for the reasons listed in the article.

  25. I would say that 70-80% of all people that make good money own guns. You need to protect yourself and your family.

  26. Hey, if you have to drive to downtown Detroit, Oakland and a lot of other stadium sites, you not only want a gun, you may want several guns, a knife, flack vest, night goggles and of course prayers beads of your religious affiliation.

  27. I can’t argue with them having a firearm for protection because I’m sure they are targeted more than the average Joe.

    2 things come to mind when I hear they own firearms at such a high rate:

    1. Maybe the league/union should consider offering a comprehensive course in proper use and gun safety to it’s players by military personel. I think alot of them would be interested if it were presented in the correct way.

    2. I would be more interested in how many own weapons such as assault rifles that are completely useless when it comes to protecting yourself or your family when you cannot keep them close at hand and are in small quarters where a family member would be just as likely to be hurt/killed as the assailant. Anyone remember Tank Johnson?

  28. As a concealed carry permit holder, I think going through the training will make you less likely to use a gun in that situation and more likely to avoid it all together. You become aware that every round potentially has a lawyer attached to it and that opening fire will rarely result in something positive.

    Education is the key.

  29. They have more disposable income than most people so therefore they will have more “stuff” than most people. No surprise the percentage is that high. Let’s not try to read more into it.

    I think the idea of having the league offer safety classes, when presented in the right way, is a really good idea. They have the right to own a gun, they have the disposable income to get some, so just embrace it and teach them.

    It wouldn’t prevent a Belcher-type incident but might prevent a Plaxico-type incident.

  30. @shaunypoo : You are right that education is the key. The problem is that education is not required before one is allowed to buy a gun.

  31. Personally I dont like guns BUT I own 2 of them.. it is a nessasary evil
    because you have to be able to protect your self from harm. NFL players are targets because they have Money. If they dont have a gun they should get one.

  32. On one hand, if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or substance abuse problems, you probably shouldn’t own a gun. Examples are brain damage from concussions and addiction to alcohol or pain killers.

  33. Funny how much outcry over this there is (Whitlock, Costas, Lupica with the recent tragedy in KC) when it’s NOT a constitutional right to own a vehicle and those, especially ones operated by drunks, kill far more people than any law abiding citizen who legally owns a firearm has ever done to another innocent bystander.

  34. Some of you need to actually read the 2nd Amendment. Having said that, I’m not rich or famous and don’t want to be. However, I am very well trained in the use of firearms and various weapons as it is my responsibility to protect my family, my home, my neighborh and my community. But, if the NFL can tell players they can’t enjoy weed where it is legal, why can’t they tell them not to own guns or least not to have an arsenal?

  35. Okay people, I’m not going to opine on what the NFL should do about guns, but to clarify an elementary legal point: it is absolutely legal for the league to prohibit its players from owning firearms. The constitutional protection only stops the government from passing laws that prevent you from owning firearms; there is nothing wrong with player contracts that do so.

  36. steelhammer92 says:
    Dec 7, 2012 10:31 AM
    What exactly is the downfall to owning a gun? Someone please explain.



  37. I’m not wild about guns, but as many have noted, it’s legal to own them. So if my boss asked me–as Dungy did his players–whether I owned a gun, I wouldn’t respond. It’s none of his business.

  38. Speaking of Sean Taylor…..is anyone ever going to go to trial for his murder? It’s been 5 years!!!!!!!!

  39. The original wording of the second amendment:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Obviously this was an important issue at the time, but seeing as how a militia hasn’t existed in quite some time, this seems no longer applicable.

  40. I’m wouldn’t doubt that the percentage of gun owners in the NBA is much higher that the NFL.

  41. Some interesting points made here, the idea of encouraging players to take safety courses I think is a great idea. Guns are a reality, may as well deal with it.

    I think the entire premise of this article is the typical knee-jerk reaction of the media…”someone died from a gun, what can we do about it? Nothing. Ok, we’ll let the story die.”

  42. Wouldn’t responsible gun ownership be issue here? It’s your right to be able to own a Lamborghini, but it isn’t smart to fly through a school zone doing a buck thirty at 7am…

  43. Id bet my life on the following comment: Most if not all black players own a gun whether they even need one or not. Black people and guns are like white on rice. Im just tellin it like it is. if people say this statement is racist, then people are ignorant to the truth.

  44. “then one of the guys was like, ‘You’re a good player, so I’m not going to kill you.’”
    Yeah – same here, They were all robbing me too, but they said that they thought I was smart and good looking and that they thought my chances of Making it in Hollywood would be second to none.

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