American Manhood: An Identity Defined by Brain Trauma and Gun Violence

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 – click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

Violence in American culture is increasingly finding its way into the media spotlight. With numerous mass shootings having happened–in Colorado, Connecticut and Arizona–within the last year, some members in congress are asking that gun control laws be tightened, which has prompted an expected backlash from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association (NRA).

As well, some in politics and the press are also asking to what degree does gun related violence have to do with “manhood?” This comes on the heels of a string of suicides by several celebrated sports icons. “Too many of us have been taught manhood in a way that is not healthy…men do not cry, man up…” is what CNN sports journalist, Keven Powell, wrote in a December 2nd editorial, entitled “Manhood, football and suicide.” Powell’s commentary was in response to the murder/suicide of Kansas City Chief’s linebacker, Jovan Belcher, who fatally shot his girlfriend, and himself.

Immediately after the Belcher incident, the website,, published an article on “traumatic brain injury and gun culture.” Noted TV sport’s figure, Bob Costas shared his thoughts, too, in a football game, halftime commentary:

At age 43, famed football player, Junior Seau, also committed suicide last year. On this and other professional sport-related violent deaths, just a few weeks ago Eric Adelson shared his thoughts at Yahoo! SPORTS:

2012 was a horrible year for the NFL. Seau killed himself. O.J. Murdock killed himself. And Jovan Belcher killed his daughter’s mother and then himself. His final words, according to police reports, were chilling:

“You know that I’ve been having some major problems at home and with my girlfriend,” Belcher told Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. “I need help! I wasn’t able to get enough help. I appreciate everything you all have done for me with trying to help … but it wasn’t enough. I have hurt my girl already and I can’t go back now.”

At the New York Times, an Associated Press article appeared on Christmas Eve, 2012, about yet another violent, professional athlete’s death. This time it was baseball player, Ryan Freel, of which the article says:

[Freel] sustained a concussion that caused headaches and an impaired memory, and …had season-ending knee surgery in August…sustained another head injury that put him back on the disabled list when he was hit by a pickoff throw to second base from Boston pitcher Justin Masterson at Fenway Park on April 20, 2009.

Freel also had trouble related to alcohol…pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Kentucky in 2005. The next year, he was charged with disorderly intoxication, a misdemeanor, in a pool hall in Tampa, Fla. Prosecutors settled the case by having Freel do community service.

On February 1st, at, Patrick Donohue quoted President Obama’s recent comments on the subject, in an article, entitled “Should President Obama ban Football?

“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” President Barack Obama opined in the New Republic. “You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on.”

Donahue’s article also cited the suicide of 21 year-old, college football player, Owen Thomas, and 17 year-old, high school football player, Nathan Stiles, who died from “multiple brain injuries,“ and whose autopsy revealed him to be the youngest athlete thus far to be afflicted with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, Democracy Now! published an informative report questioning the “Safety of Football.”