Early Saturday morning, the NFL experienced an unspeakable tragedy. According to reports, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher allegedly shot his girlfriend, the mother of his three-month-old child, then committed suicide at the Chiefs practice facility near Arrowhead Stadium.
Before shooting himself with the alleged murder weapon he used on girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, 22, he thanked Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli for their kindness during his career. He was 25 years old.
The suicide occurred in front of these two men, as well as other Chiefs personnel in the parking lot of the team complex, as police approached to question him about his girlfriend’s death.
The magnitude of this tragedy dug up many issues. One of these issues is gun control and, consequently, guns in the hands of professional athletes.
NBC sports reporter Bob Costas used his halftime monologue during Sunday Night Football to advocate for stricter gun laws. Soon afterward, Costas was crucified by countless Second Amendment activists on social media. His standing with the network is still unknown, but many have called for him to be let go.
But this is not the first time firearms have grabbed headlines. Many Giants fans remember when wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg with an unlicensed firearm at a New York City nightclub. He was subsequently suspended from the team and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Costas said what many gun control supporters have been saying for years: Restrictions need to be placed on gun purchases.
Would Belcher and Perkins be alive today if Belcher had not been able to purchase that gun?
After the initial investigation, the Chiefs faced an important decision. They had a game scheduled for Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers, less than 36 hours after Belcher’s suicide.
The leadership of the team ultimately decided to play the game — the Chiefs won 27-21 — with a moment of silence for Belcher and Perkins, which drew its own degree of criticism.
Certainly, this was an extremely difficult decision for the Chiefs and the league. To be honest, I am conflicted as well. On one hand, the game could be a signal of healing to the fan base and the rest of the league. Obviously, many wanted to move past these terrible events as soon as possible.
However, this could also be viewed as insensitive. After such an awful crime was committed by a team’s player, it may want to halt operations for time to grieve. Not to mention that the head coach was a witness to Belcher’s suicide.
In the end, the team decided to plug along, and their fortitude was shown on the field as well as in press conferences with various players and team leadership. Crennel summed this choice up as best for the team, and everyone connected with the Kansas City Chiefs.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Crennel said, “For a couple of hours we could brush the misery aside and do something we love to do, and maybe that would help us and help the community.”
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 5 print edition. Chris Marcotrigiano is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.