Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Tragedy in KC: Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher Kills GF, then Suicides

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Today, something awful happened in Kansas City.

If you haven’t heard already, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher, has died.  Worse yet, he killed himself in full view of his coach, Romeo Crennel, and his general manager, Scott Pioli, at the team’s practice facility — this after killing his girlfriend in their home.

Belcher leaves behind a three-month-old daughter.

Yahoo Sports explains all the particulars in this article.  Here’s a relevant quote:

Police told the Kansas City Star that Belcher, 25, and Perkins got into an argument at approximately 7:00 a.m. Saturday at a residence in nearby Independence, Mo. Belcher shot Perkins multiple times. She was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead there. The couple had a 3-month-old daughter, who is currently safe in the care of a relative.

Members of the Chiefs’ staff tried to stop Belcher from committing any other acts of violence before the player turned a gun on himself. The team’s practice facility was evacuated and put on police lockdown.

This is nearly an unimaginably tragic event.  Yet the NFL, in its infinite whatever, has decided that the Chiefs should play their game against the Carolina Panthers as scheduled at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

I don’t agree.

Neither does Yahoo Sports columnist Michael Silver, who says:

I’m appalled that the team and league are sticking to the script, and I question the logic behind the decision. Pardon my skepticism, and that of one Chiefs player who predicted this in the wake of the tragedy: “It’s all about money,” he said.

In this particular situation, it shouldn’t be. If the NFL wanted to do the right thing for the players, coaches and team employees reeling from this horrible occurrence — not to mention the loved ones of Belcher and, most of all, Kasandra Perkins, the woman he is believed to have murdered — the league should have postponed the game until Monday or canceled it.

Silver goes on to state that:

The abrupt loss of a teammate and friend is a tough thing to confront. The fact that Belcher apparently took lives carries even darker overtones. That Belcher’s death happened at the workplace is another level of horror. That his death happened in front of Pioli and Crennel makes the notion of playing on Sunday even more dubious. Asking the organization to soldier on through Sunday’s game – a decision made in large part by Crennel and team captains – is absurd and unreasonable in my opinion. They need grief counseling — which the NFL, to its credit, is providing — and they should get at least 24 hours to collect themselves and assess their respective emotional states.

A head coach typically addresses the team on Saturday night and presides over meetings, then speaks to the players again on Sunday morning before they take the field. In addition, the head coach oversees many other aspects of the football operation during the weekend of a home game. Should Crennel be expected to handle these matters in a business-as-usual fashion? The answer, to me, seems obvious.

During my editorial internship stint today for the Web site Bleacher Report, I came across this article by Brian Kinel.  He points out that the Chiefs and the NFL should try to help the orphaned three-month-old baby:

Here’s a chance for sports to redeem itself for fans like me that struggle with this issue.

Take care of that baby.

She should have a whole lot of Chiefs’ “uncles” who will love her, help take care of her and do the best they can to help her have a good life.

Put some money aside from the bountiful gate for the Panthers game tomorrow for the baby.

If this game absolutely must be played, Kinel’s suggestion should be taken to heart by the powers that be in the NFL.  Because it’s plain, flat wrong to put those Chiefs players and coaches into a situation like this when nothing good can come of it — except, perhaps, to give that little baby some financial assistance at a time she needs it most.

My quick take — recognizing, of course, that I am not a medical expert — is that Belcher was probably sleep-deprived.  His girlfriend, too, was probably sleep-deprived.  So the argument they had over her late arrival from a previous evening’s concert may have had a great deal to do with the frustration of being new parents.

Belcher, too, could’ve been more upset than usual as the Chiefs have won only one game all season long.  That puts a great deal of pressure on everyone in the organization, but most especially on the players and coaches.

In this case, the argument between a 25-year-old man and his 22-year-old girlfriend escalated into a murder-suicide.  That’s tragic.  Two lives have been lost, cut down too soon due to pressures we may never fully understand.

That said, if I were Romeo Crennel and I’d just seen one of my best linebackers kill himself in front of my eyes, I think I’d have asked for a postponement of the game.  And if the NFL refused, I believe the Chiefs should have just forfeited the game rather than go out and play with heavy hearts and risk serious injury because they can’t possibly be focused on a mere game at such a terrible time in all of their lives.

I understand the NFL’s “play or else” mentality.  One of the best games I’ve ever seen was Brett Favre’s complete dismantling of the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football on December 23, 2003, one night after his father’s sudden death due to a heart attack or stroke.  (See this link from Sports Illustrated for further details.)

But that was one man’s tragedy — bad, but not anywhere near as bad as what happened today in Kansas City.

The NFL should do the right thing and either postpone the game tomorrow between the Chiefs and Panthers, or cancel it altogether.  And they definitely should do something for that poor, orphaned baby girl.

And although I know it’s trite, my heart definitely goes out to the people affected by this tragedy — the coaches, players and fans of the Chiefs.  The family members of Belcher’s girlfriend.  Belcher’s own family members.  And anyone affiliated with Belcher in any professional or personal capacity.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

December 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm

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