As regular readers of this column may already be aware, I spend a great many hours each fall watching the National Football League on CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN and the NFL Network.
However, as much as I enjoy watching professional football, the rationale behind the Kansas City Chiefs’ decision to play their scheduled game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday baffles me.
After linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, in front of his own mother, he drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility and shot and killed himself in front of general manager Scott Piori and head coach Romeo Crennel.
Reports out of Kansas City say Piori and Crennel were about three feet away from Belcher when he blew his brains out, disregarding their pleas for no further violence.
Crennel and the team captains reportedly felt it would help the team’s healing process if they played the game instead of postponing it. But other reports quoted unnamed players as saying they were confused and stunned and didn’t want to play.
If Crennel, who by all accounts, is a fine man, could handle the situation psychologically, then that’s how he processes grief. I have no issue with how someone handles their grief, as long as they do it nonviolently.
But, I wonder if the decision truly was their own, as the league office stated, or if they felt pressure while in a very emotionally vulnerable state not to postpone the game.
Whatever the Chiefs felt, the fact remains that two human beings were lying on slabs in the morgue, not yet laid to rest with personal tributes or consoling words for the families, while two teams played an utterly inconsequential football game.
The moment of silence for victims of domestic violence before the game indicated that the public relations personnel were not entirely tone deaf. Yet, it seemed like a meaningless talking point that someone pulled off the printer in a conference room. It didn’t seem like a tribute to a 22-year-old woman slain by the father of their 3-month-old daughter.
In fact, the subtext of the decision to play the game one day after the murder-suicide is that selling the game, or “protecting the shield,” as they say in the league office, is more important than human life.
The public relations value of each October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign by the NFL is transparent. More women than ever before are NFL fans. The league’s own statistics show that.
Regardless of how much the players adorn their apparel with pink, it can’t erase the red stain of blood on all the athletes who have injured or killed their wives or girlfriends.
Belcher majored in child development and family relations at the University of Maine, where he was the student coordinator of a group called Male Athletes Against Violence.
If a man like that can kill a woman, what are women supposed to think about the men who put football above Perkins’ memory?