Monday, August 15, 2016

The Long Rhode To Gunmerica

Kim Rhode is an Olympic legend that most of us haven't heard of, and last week in Rio she became the first woman in history to win medals in six consecutive Olympic summer games.  That's a massive accomplishment for sure, a testament to her skill and longevity in the world of sport.

The issue is that Rhode's sport is skeet shooting, and her views on gun control are not very accommodating to say the least.

US Olympic Gold Medal shooter Kim Rhode is wading into the gun control debate and defended the Second Amendment ahead of her competition in Brazil. 
"We should have the right to keep and bear arms, to protect ourselves and our family," the skeet shooter said in an interview Wednesday with Time Magazine in Rio de Janeiro. "The Second Amendment was put in there not just so we can go shoot skeet or go shoot trap. It was put in so we could defend our First Amendment, the freedom of speech, and also to defend ourselves against our own government."

It's weird to see any Olympic athlete admit that her sport should be used to kill people, but sure.

The California native said that she hopes to pass shooting along to her three-year-old son "when he becomes of age." 
"I started when I was like 7 or 8 years old, and it was something that was a big deal in my family, to gain that rite of passage," she said. 
The skeet shooter also criticized gun control measures that were passed in California following the December 2015 San Bernardino terror attack that left 14 dead.

And if you're wondering why Rhode sounds like a walking billboard for the NRA and the firearms industry, it's because she is one.

Yet if the best form of compensation is colored green, there’s no need to feel sorry for Rhode. On her webpage—“Kim Rhode, just a girl shooting guns and stuff”—she provides a list of sponsors that include a firearms retailer, a hunters’ conservation group, and manufacturers of guns, ammunition and gun-cleaning equipment. A wife and mother, she is her family’s primary breadwinner, she says. “Compared with other sports, we have a massive industry behind us,” says Rhode, a 37-year-old skeet shooter.
An estimated 20 million Americans hunt, and more yet compete at shooting ranges, so Olympic medalists can serve as compelling faces of the firearms industry. After winning a gold medal in London, Rhode made an appearance at a hunting trade show on behalf of a sponsor, Otis Technology, a maker of gun-cleaning kits based in Lyons Falls, N.Y. “The line stretched way down the hallway with people wanting her autograph,” says Heather Bennett, marketing manager for Otis, which also sponsors sharpshooting biathletes in the Winter Games. 
TruckVault, a maker of secure in-vehicle storage lockers, began sponsoring Rhode after she became a customer, following the theft of a shotgun from her vehicle. “Part of the responsibility of owning a gun is securing your weapons,” said Don Fenton, sales marketing director for TruckVault, based in Sedro-Woolley, Wash. He calls Rhode “a great young athlete deserving of manufacturers’ dollars.”
Safari Club International, a hunters’ conservation group based in Tucson, Ariz., sponsors Rhode and two other female U.S. Olympic shooters because it “strongly supports women in the shooting sports,” says Phil DeLone, chief executive officer, adding that the Olympians are a big hit at the organization’s annual convention.

So yeah, Kim Rhode is certainly one hell of an athlete, setting a record for consistency and skill that spans two decades and five continents, an achievement that definitely puts Usain Bolt's track accomplishments and Michael Phelps's mastery of the water in perspective.

Rhode also is paid very well by the gun industry for doing what she does.  It's one thing to pitch Nike or Gatorade or Wheaties as an Olympian.  It's another to sell guns.

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