Sports are many things to many people. Often sports can be a barometer or a beacon in trying times. Remember how the New Orleans Saints lifted a town broken and battered by Hurricane Katrina? Or the Detroit Tigers helping a financially struggling city come together and forget…if only for a moment?
We’ve all heard the recent tragedy of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher fatally shooting his girlfriend Kassandra Perkins before killing himself, leaving behind a three month old daughter- and grief-stricken confused family members and friends.
We will never know the full story of what happened between Belcher and his girlfriend, but this story shines the light on many several troubling issues…domestic violence, mental illness, and to me.... the perception of “manhood” and a woman’s worth and self esteem.
From all accounts Belcher was a model citizen, hardworking student and athlete and an all around good-guy. A modern day success story of an undrafted free agent who worked his way into a starting position, in fact his agent was quoted as saying he only takes on clients that he would be proud to take home to his wife and family. So how could someone so mild mannered and family- oriented snap in such a violent manner? And if Belcher had anyone to talk to about whatever demons were plaguing him?
Friends and family in Kassandra Perkins inner circle have been reported as saying that she was concerned over Belcher’s mental state and that relations between the two had been “strained”. Although it appears that there had been no evidence of prior domestic violence incidents, you have to wonder if there were warning signs and why Perkins chose to ignore them. I hope that she valued herself …and that of her infant daughter and made her decision to stay in the relationship based on that fact.
We live in a culture where athletes are adored and placed on pedestals. We demand every moment of their time and energy, comment and observe every aspect of their life, athletic ability and performance and often discard them when they are past their prime and usefulness. In a world such as this, would Belcher have felt comfortable asking for help? Would he have felt less of a man to admit that he had problems or was feeling pressure personally and professionally?
The NFL has the opportunity to shine its light on many subjects…including steroid use and the impact of head injuries, although the Chief’s have stated that Belcher did not suffer from any head injuries and received a clean bill of health from the team doctor.
I hope that this incident does not go in vain- that we not rush to judgment- but that an honest open dialogue begins on many subjects to ask questions, investigate ….but more importantly to find answers….and apply them so that this tragedy never happens again.
Your Jersey Girlfriend,