the scoreboard in arrowhead stadium on sunday afternoon read kansas city chiefs 27, carolina panthers 21. the chiefs improved their record to 2-10, which, especially given their dismal season, would normally be cause for celebration. but their victory came in the aftermath of an unimaginable tragedy involving one of their players.
saturday morning chiefs linebacker jovan belcher killed his 22 year-old girlfriend, kasandra perkins. belcher then drove, alone, five miles to the stadium & shot himself - in front of chiefs coach romeo crenell, chiefs defensive coordinator gary gibbs & chiefs general manager scott piloi - in the parking lot of the team's facility.
many people, inside & outside of the nfl community, debated the purpose of the game being played. crenell said the team decided to play because "we're football players & coaches & that's what we do on sundays." chiefs center ryan lilja, one of the team captains who affirmed their decision said, "none of the options were good. the least worst option was to play. there was no precedent for this & i don't know if this was the right or wrong choice. but we chose to do it together."
professional male athletes are human & react to death in various ways. linebacker derrick johnson said belcher's death didn't really hit him until he woke up sunday morning & drove to the stadium. quarterback brady quinn pondered how well people actually communicate their real feelings in a society where social media dominates. lilja talked about a desire to hug every teammate when he walked into the locker room.
the chiefs remind us of how the relationship between sports & extended families resonate universally. players openly talked about ways to support zoey, the three month-old daughter of belcher & perkins. team owner clark hunt emphasized therapists will be available for all who need support. crenell also mentioned how critical it was for the team to unify when he addressed them saturday morning.
said crenell, "the thing that helped the most was that we were able to lean on each other. we were able to let some things out." the chiefs also had to balance missing a friend & idolizing a murderer. there was no mention of belcher or perkins during the moment of silence before the game - the message was intended to demonstrate support for domestic violence - but a team employee left belcher's cleats, helmets, jersey & shoulder pads in his locker.
chiefs right tackle eric winston said, "the hardest part is to try & speak positively about belcher & also know what happened. that's the most confusing part for me. i've dealt with somebody taking their own life before, but never something like this." no one on their team ever experienced this type of trauma. in a town where football reigns supreme & two families are deeply wounded, the chiefs decided to heal the only way they knew how: by playing football on a sunday afternoon.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.