Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, 25, died early Saturday morning in Kansas City of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Before shooting himself outside Arrowhead stadium's training facility in front of coaches and staff, he shot and killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, 22, at his Kansas City home.
Police recieved a phone call Saturday morning from Belcher's mother who witnessed the shooting after an argument between the couple. Another emergency call came from the stadium about 20 minutes later, as Belcher held a gun to his head outside the training facility and thanked coaches for all of their support. As police arrived on the scene, Belcher took his own life.
Perkins and Belcher leave behind a 3-month-old daughter.
The thoughts and prayers of Kansas City, and indeed the nation, are with the families of the couple, Belcher's mother and coaches who witnessed this tragedy and the team who is still planning to play tomorrow at Arrowhead against the Carolina Panthers.
The NFL, according to the Kansas City Star's Facebook feed, is not planning to postpone or cancel the game.
We will never know exactly what provoked Belcher to take these actions. Maybe part of it was the stress of being a part of a team heavily criticized for it's poor performance by it's own fans and the media, so much so that fans cheered quarterback Matt Cassel's traumatic on-field injury earlier this season. Maybe it was in part due to the traumas associated with head injuries that many in the NFL endure. Or maybe it had nothing to do with football at all, but the added stress couldn't have helped.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James points the finger, at least partially, at the sports culture in our country. James said: "We can get pretty mean-spirited. We can talk about 25, 26, 30-year-old kids playing a game as if they are trash if they don’t perform up to our standards. Most of us have never played the game above high school, but all of a sudden we can tear them apart if they don’t meet our expectations. That has an impact on people … we could stand to put things in better perspective sometimes."
The nation pays attention to this incident because Belcher was a high profile young man, but the truth of the matter is that "this is part of the tragedy of urban living in this country … hand guns all over the place, people keep blowing themselves away and others," said James.
It's not all about guns alone either, it's about our priorities. People live on the street, kids can't get a quality education, murder suicides take place while we focus on sports stars and spend billions on a professional sports culture that primarily just drives our competitive spirits.
The deaths of Belcher and Perkins should remind us to keep our perspectives as we move forward, in our sports culture and in our everyday lives, to work to stop the stresses that lead to such tragedies for Americans everyday.