Jovan Belcher committed suicide Saturday morning where an NFL game was played Sunday. Before Belcher blew his brains out, he murdered his 22-year-old girl friend Kasandra Pehins the mother of the couple’s 3 month old baby girl Zoey. The Kansas City Chiefs played their regularly scheduled National Football League game Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers that was the right decision. Belcher put a gun to his head in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium in front of the Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel and the team’s Scott Pioli. The NFL left the decision to play Sunday’s game to the Chiefs, who decided late Saturday night the “show would go on.”
What took place in Kansas City Saturday is a tragedy, tragic for the families of Kasandra Pehins, Jovan Belcher and young Zoey Belcher. Teammates, his agent, it would seem no one really know or understood how troubled a young man Jovan Belcher was. Belcher made the Chiefs roster in 2009 as an undrafted rookie, after playing for the University of Maine. The Chiefs were paying $1.927 million this year.
Why did Belcher go to the Chiefs practice facility and speak to his coach and general manager before putting a gun to his head Saturday morning?
“That’s his safe place. That was his home,” sports psychologist Doug Gardner told FOXSports.com. “When people are in situations where they are shaken and under stress, they often end up places where they are familiar.”
Football fans attending Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium parked their cars in the same parking lot where Jovan Belcher ended his life in front of his coach and general manger Saturday morning; why did Belcher decide to put a gun to his head in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium?
“You usually allow people time to talk about the person’s life and share stories,” Gardner said. “You want to honor them. You aren’t going to be able to do that. This is a very difficult situation.
“There may be some symbolic gestures to honor him, but even that’s a difficult decision. You are never going to get around the fact he murdered somebody. The players are going to be conflicted.”
Belcher’s agent Joe Linta who in an ironic twist is also the agent for Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel offered this to SI.com’s Peter King on Belcher.
"Jovan was a happy, proud father, with pictures of his baby on his Facebook page. This is shocking. Something went crazy wrong, and we'll probably never know what it is.
"Never until four hours ago did I think Jovan was anything but a model citizen,'' Linta told SI.com’s Peter King. "He came to my youth clinics in the offseason and worked with kids. He was a gracious, unselfish, hard-working, dedicated kid -- very, very caring of some of the underprivileged kids who came to the clinics. I saw him in a real positive way.
"I never take on anyone as a client I wouldn't be proud to take home and spend time with my wife and kids. Jovan was one of those type of people.
"There's no word for this other than shocking. That's all I can think of."
National Football League players committing suicide is becoming an important issue the NFL needs to address. In May former San Diego Charger Junior Seau killed himself. In April, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home. In July, Tennessee Titans wide receiver OJ Murdock (an active NFL player) committed suicide by gunshot after leaving regretful messages for former coaches and sportswriters. Seau and Easterling’s suicides were both linked to concussions NFL players have suffered.
Belcher reportedly didn’t suffer a concussion during his four year NFL career, or during his collegiate career at the University of Maine, concussions and hits to the heads of NFL players have become an issue the NFL no longer avoids. It is important to ask the question – what if any impact did hits to Jovan Belcher’s head have on what drove Belcher to murder a young woman and then kill himself?
Chiefs’ owner Clark Hunt released the following statement Saturday: “The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened by today’s events, and our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families and friends affected by this unthinkable tragedy.
“We sincerely appreciate the expressions of sympathy and support we have received from so many in the Kansas City and NFL communities, and ask for continued prayers for the loved ones of those impacted. We will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and work to ensure that the appropriate counseling resources are available to all members of the organization.”
This from the National Football League: “"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Chiefs and the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy. We have connected the Chiefs with our national team of professional counselors to support both the team and the families of those affected. We will continue to provide assistance in any way that we can."
How could the Chiefs have played Sunday? As conflicted as the Chiefs were Sunday, the players simply believed they had a job to do, the Chiefs believed they were doing what they believed what they were right as professional football players to play their scheduled game.
“There are five stages of grief, and the Chiefs are in the first stage at this point: shock,” Gardner told Fox Sports before Sunday’s game. “People aren’t able to process something like this quickly. People are going to want to look for answers. Was there any way they could have seen this coming? The players will be there physically (Sunday), but not there mentally.
“The stadium is usually a refuge where you can put your mind off something like this for two or three hours,” Gardner said. “The players can’t do that here.”
Tragically this wasn’t the first time an active NFL player died while he was playing for an NFL team.
The Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins also have dealt with the death of active team member during previous NFL seasons.
Fox Sports reported: “Broncos receiver Kenny McKinley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in September 2010. Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was murdered hours after the Broncos’ final game of the 2006 season, in a drive-by killing in downtown Denver.
In November 2007, Redskins linebacker Sean Taylor, who was home in Florida recuperating from an injury, died after he was shot in the leg during a robbery attempt. Bengals receiver Chris Henry died after he fell out of a pickup truck in December 2009.
“You are distracted, and your routine changes,” said former offensive lineman Todd Wade, a teammate of Taylor’s with the Redskins. “You just kind of have to move forward. If there’s one thing about a football season, it's that you have to move on. As callous as that sounds, you do.”
The right decision was made Sunday to play the game. The game didn’t matter; both teams will be on the outside looking in when the NFL playoffs begin next month. As professional football players the Chiefs didn’t honor Belcher’s memory Sunday, they did what professionals do every day; they suited up and went to work. A moment’s silence was held before the Chiefs game Sunday, a moment allowing for those in attendance to reflect on the victims of domestic violence; Jovan Belcher’s name wasn’t and shouldn’t have been mentioned. Belcher died as a troubled young man, a young man who had murdered a young woman.
For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom