Is anyone on the Kansas City Chiefs mad at Jovan Belcher, murderer? He killed a 22-year-old woman, leaving a three-month old motherless. He did this in a house with his mother in a nearby room. And yet his jersey still hangs in the team’s locker room as some sort of twisted memorial.
If he died as former Chief running back Joe Delaney did in 1983, drowning while trying to rescue three children in a lake, or as former K.C. linebacker Derrick Thomas did tragically from a massive blood clot resulting from a car accident in 2000 . . . then such a display would be appropriate.
Delaney’s and Thomas’ names and numbers reside on the Arrowhead Stadium Ring of Honor – an appropriate place for fallen players who did not die from their own hand.
Belcher killed himself – after killing his girlfriend. And for that, he should be shunned like poison ivy.
It is a tragedy that Belcher, 25, took his own life after gunning down his girlfriend, but with the murder should come disassociation and anger, not sympathy.
This is not a cold-hearted approach, but one born of empathy for Kasandra Perkins and her parent-less child; for her family that grieves the unnecessary death a loved one, including her cousin – the wife of Belcher teammate Jamaal Charles – who introduced her to the athlete that would take her life.
And then there is his mother, Cheryl Shepherd, who was left to seek help for her dying “daughter-in-law.” You could hear her pain and fear in the 911 call recording. She’s making his funeral plans and left to raise his child, who will be a constant memory of the tragedy that will tug at her heart the rest of her life.
After shooting his girlfriend, Belcher headed to the team’s practice facility to shoot himself in front of the general manager, head coach and his position coach. They are undergoing mandatory counseling for witnessing someone put a bullet through his own head. Think they will forget that moment anytime soon?
More significantly, little Zoey will grow up and one day will be old enough to ask about her parents. How do you craft an answer that does not scar her for life?
This is the carnage Belcher left behind. For that, he hardly should earn anyone’s sympathy – or a place in the Chiefs’ locker room.
“I don’t know if it’s a shrine, or whatever you want to put it. It’s a tribute,” offensive tackle Eric Winston said. “He was a player on this team. We’re all struggling to reconcile the conflicting emotions we have.”
No doubt, for the players, it is a difficult balance, but how did he earn a tribute? He killed a young woman.
His teammates got dressed in suits and attended a memorial service for Belcher on Wednesday. They are hurt and confused, shocked. How could someone they thought they knew flip as he apparently did. Maybe it was brain injury that turned him, although any other known case of NFL players with such malfunctions have only hurt themselves. Maybe it was one false moment that he wished he had back the instant it occurred, although the multiple gun shots could suggest something different.
Lots of maybes. . .
Whatever the case, Belcher’s locker should be cleaned out and discarded like so much trash. He does not deserve the attention it brings or the sympathy it elicits.
No one will know what drove a seemingly fine young man to such an awful tailspin. But he is not the victim here; he created the victims, and there are many.
And for that, Belcher should be cast aside, at least figuratively. His mother has already said she will always love her son; that’s a mom for you. His friends certainly will have similar feelings.
To onlookers, it is a bit frustrating and disheartening to see so much attention paid to a murderer. The attention and focus should go to the real victims in this horrible case – and to someone worthy, someone who can use the prayers and use the support.