As the sports world tries to come to terms with the horrific murder and suicide of Chiefs player Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, there are several viewpoints emerging about domestic violence and gun control. Here is a sample.
From ESPN’s Jemele Hill:
By hanging Belcher's jersey, the Chiefs created a memorial for a man who murdered the 22-year-old mother of his infant daughter on Saturday morning, then drove to the team's practice facility and fired a single shot into his head in front of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli.
The moment of silence for domestic violence victims at Arrowhead Stadium was sadly fitting, because when it comes to acknowledging violence against women, the sports world is often mute.
If you glance at that domestic violence fact sheet, then you'll understand that Kasandra Perkins' murder isn't unusual at all.
Many people are shocked because this tragic story involves an NFL player, but according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, and in most cases, authorities discover that the abuse began long before a fatal crime occurred.
At this point, we don't know the state of Perkins and Belcher's relationship. Some friends have described them as a happy couple and others say their relationship was in trouble and Perkins had expressed concerns about Belcher's mental health to friends. As of now, it does not appear Belcher had any history of domestic abuse.
Regardless of whether we ever learn the full story behind what led to this unspeakable tragedy, violence against women is a significant problem in our society. In sports, it's sometimes met with indifference until something like this happens.
When O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole, it put domestic violence in the spotlight for a moment. Same with Rae Carruth, who is in prison for arranging the murder of his pregnant girlfriend.
The same public scrutiny undoubtedly will happen with Belcher, so while the window is open, there needs to be a serious conversation about the broader issue of violence toward women, especially by athletes.
Many people are struggling to comprehend how Belcher — who while attending Maine was a member of Male Athletes Against Violence — could have done something so horrible. People keep searching for provocation, as if a scenario existed that could have warranted Belcher shooting Perkins nine times in front of her 3-month-old and Belcher's mother.
Maybe it wasn't just one thing that contributed to this tragedy. Although Chiefs owner Clark Hunt told reporters on Sunday the medical staff confirmed that Belcher didn't have any unusual medical issues, with all that's known about the damage repeated on-field collisions can do to the brain, I'm willing to consider the fact that those collisions may have taken a toll on Belcher's mental health.
But there also is room for a deeper discussion about how sports deals with domestic violence, and to address why it seems athletic culture has made disrespecting and hurting women acceptable.
From SI’s Peter King:
Crennel spoke to me Sunday after the Chiefs game, but he said he didn't want to discuss specifics of what he saw and experienced outside the building. Pioli would not speak either — to anything. Both men had been debriefed by the police for a lengthy police report, but have not spoken publicly about what happened.
But as I reported on NBC Sunday night, a source close to law enforcement on the scene Saturday told me the story had some differences from the one widely reported over the weekend. When Pioli arrived at the Chiefs' complex around 8 a.m., Belcher had just arrived and was out of his car. Pioli got out of his car and noticed that Belcher was in an agitated state, according to my source. As they spoke, Pioli saw Belcher had a gun. Though Belcher was clearly unstable, the source said Pioli didn't feel threatened because Belcher never pointed the gun at him. Belcher and Pioli were alone in the parking lot, a few yards apart, for several minutes.
(The source did not tell me if Pioli knew exactly what Belcher had done before he arrived, but he said clearly Belcher had shot someone and spoke of the police coming for him soon.)
At one point while the two men were alone in the parking lot, the source said, Belcher said to Pioli: "I came here to tell you thank you. Thank you for my chance. I love you, bro.''
The source said Pioli tried to calm Belcher, but had little success. At one point, Belcher asked Pioli, "Can I talk to Romeo and Gary?'' Crennel and Gibbs, he meant.
Pioli took out his cell phone and called Crennel, asking him to get Gibbs and come outside. (Imagine what Pioli had to be thinking here: I'm calling two of my closest coaching friends to come out into an open parking lot with an unstable man with a gun, who apparently has shot someone, and is impervious to any attempt to calm him down. How dangerous is that?)
Within minutes Gibbs and Crennel appeared. They, too, tried to calm Belcher, to no avail. Belcher thanked them for his NFL opportunity, and he began to walk away from them.
"I wasn't able to reach the young man,'' Crennel said softly over the phone from Kansas City Sunday.
Belcher walked a few steps away, put the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.
There will be counselors, for players who felt they didn't do enough to recognize Belcher's desperation, and for the three men who witnessed a man killing himself with a gunshot to the head. The counselors, according to one grief counselor I spoke with Sunday, will probably say something like this: Jovan made a decision by himself, having nothing to do with any of you. To Jovan, personal business had to be taken care of, and there was nothing that you could have done, so you can't punish yourself.
From the Huffington Post:
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and his wife, Whitney, also released a statement Monday asking for privacy. In it, the Charles' confirmed that Perkins and Whitney Charles were cousins, and that Perkins was a "not only family, but a friend and a loving mother."
"As my actual family and my Kansas City Chiefs family have been altered forever, we ask that you keep us and most importantly their child in prayer," the Charles' statement said.
Brianne York, 21, a friend of Perkins, said Sunday that Perkins met Belcher through Whitney Charles.
Belcher's relatives also provided statements Monday, as several relatives gathered outside of Belcher's boyhood home, looking somber and sad. Yamiesse Lawrence, a cousin of Belcher's, said the weekend's events were an "inconceivable tragedy."
"As a family, no words can express the sorrow we feel over the loss of Jovan and Kasandra," Lawrence read aloud.
She said the family is "overwhelmed with both sadness and confusion," and extends thoughts and prayers to the Perkins family.
Belcher's niece, Quaresha Boston, said the football player "embraced life and excelled at all he put his energy behind" and that God alone could "mend our hearts."
"We loved Jovan. His kindness, humility, respect and gratitude for family and friends were steadfast," she said. "… He was happy to be a new father and both he and Kasandra loved Zoey greatly."