By Darragh Farrelly
Following the death of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins on Saturday morning last, a number of questions have been raised over the murder-suicide.
Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death at their home Saturday morning, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of the team’s coach and general manager.
The four-year veteran killed Perkins, with whom he has a 3-month-old-daughter, with nine bullets before driving to Arrowhead Stadium where he committed suicide in front of his head coach, Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli.
“Guys, I have to do this,” the Long Island high school star told Pioli and Coach Romeo Crennel. “I got to go. I can’t be here.”
Looking from the outside in, Belcher appeared the embodiment of a typical NFL success story: an undrafted agent from the University of Maine, whose work ethic and an over-riding love for the the game which helped him play in the National Football League.
But many questions remain and will continue to do so long after the dust has settled on this dark episode for the Chiefs organisation and the NFL.
On Sunday night, Bob Costas, presenter of NBC’s prime time Sunday night football show, chose to question gun control laws in the United States. In a 90-second briefing, Costas referred to a piece written earlier in the day by Fox’s Jason Whitlock:
Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.
In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.
Numerous questions were raised over Costas’ address through social media outlets, namely Twitter and Facebook, suggesting it was wrong to bring up such a contentious issue on such a stage.
“If you have daughters, you should (have a gun),” Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith said Monday. “You have to protect yourself. You work so hard to get to where you at, I’ll be damned if I’ll just let someone take it from me.”
What is extremely worrying for the leagues commissioner and NFL fans alike is this has become a worrying trend.
Former players Junior Seau in May, Ray Easterling in April and Michael Current in January all committed suicide.
Experts have suggested that that the high-speed, muscular contact nature of the game leads players to look for a doping edge despite drug testing, and that can lead to psychological instability.
Don Hooton, who founded the Taylor Hooton Foundation to promote steroids education in 2004, seven months after his son, Taylor, committed suicide following his use of anabolic steroids, suspects doping.
Hooton said that despite efforts in professional leagues to stem the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED), recent studies showed that steroids use was on the rise among U.S. school children.
“It’s not getting better – it’s getting worse,” said Hooton. “We better wake up, America.”
With all the analysis in the world, there is one fact which remains at the bones of this story: there is a 3-month-old girl who has been left without her two parents, in something which could have been prevented.
While medical staff at the Chiefs organisation were quick to point out that Belcher had no knowledge of any physical or emotional issues bothering the linebacker, there will be undoubted calls for more stringent practices to be put in place following this tragedy.
Belcher kissed the lifeless forehead of his girlfriend before saying goodbye. As the New York Daily News described it, a kiss of death.
It may take some time for the Kansas City Chiefs, currently 2-10, to move on from this dark moment in their history.
If nothing else, this should act as a lesson to stop such incidents repeating themselves.