Networks Fail in Kansas City Murder/Suicide Coverage
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: December 03, 2012
I loaded my Twitter feed Saturday morning to find it littered with unspeakable horror. A Kansas City Chief had allegedly murdered his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself, possibly in front of members of his coaching staff.
We now know it was linebacker Jovan Belcher who robbed his three month old daughter Zoey of life with her father or her mother, Kasandra Perkins. The Chiefs have confirmed that head coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs were present for Belcher's final moments.
The outpouring of support among the NFL community, from players to coaches, pundits to fans was remarkable. I wanted to join the ranks, to offer condolences via social media or perhaps become another voice speaking out against domestic violence. I typed (and deleted) what must have been ten heartfult attempts, only to believe each one sounded hollow and insignificant. What justice could my words possibly do to this development of events?
It's now been more than 48 hours since Belcher shot the mother of his child a number of times Kansas City Police have refused to share publicly. Twenty-eight teams played football yesterday, the Chiefs among them. And though I remain skeptical as to what measure of good my words on the matter can generate, especially as an outsider completely unfamiliar with all parties involved, I no longer wish to remain silent.
I was fortunate to miss CBS' coverage (or lack thereof) of the murder-suicide. The program evidently opened with a plug about Garmin products followed by a playful breakdown of both the AFC and NFC playoff landscapes. It was a full five minutes before host James Brown turned to Kansas City. The NFL Today crew addressed the issues, but when the hour was complete, more time had been spent covering Victoria's Secret model Lily Aldridge's game picks than the senseless loss of Perkins, a 22-year-old mother, at the hands of the man she trusted, cohabitated with, and created life with.
Three month-old Zoey will never know her mother, murder victim Kasandra Perkins
ESPN's NFL Sunday Countdown, of which I am a weekly viewer, handled the situation with greater aplomb, but I was still surprised to hear one analyst after another give what sounded tantamount to memorials for a man who committed murder, whether describing his purported work ethic or impressive rise from undrafted rookie out of the University of Maine to a starter in the NFL. Adam Schefter took the opportunity to share with us that he had spoken to Joe Linta, agent of both Belcher and Crennel, who confirmed that Belcher had traveled to Arrowhead Stadium in order to thank Pioli, Crennel and Gibbs for the opportunities they'd afforded him in his career. As he said it, I got the impression Schefter wanted us to be impressed with this gesture. But any nobility rooted in the gesture would be squandered by the murder it followed and, of course, the fact that Belcher chose those three men to be saddled with the image of his death for the rest of their lives.
Thank goodness for Tom Jackson. The former Denver Bronco served as the voice of reason among ESPN pundits, reminding us "We hear about what a great teammate he [Belcher] was and how close some of the guys were to him; he is in fact a guy who is a murderer, who has taken the life of Kasandra Perkins as a new mom and left a little girl without her parents. So, you know, as we look at the outpouring of all of the sympathy that will go toward Jovan Belcher today, I would ask people to remember Kasandra Perkins, this 22-year-old new mom who lost her life to gun violence." This was the moment I finally broke my Twitter silence, thanking an account Jackson hasn't touched in nearly three years, to express my gratitude for his rationality and compassion toward Belcher's victim. An insignificant gesture? Probably. Hollow? Not in the slightest.
Perhaps there is no right way to respond to Belcher's horrifying actions on Saturday. Many argue that the Chiefs should have rescheduled yesterday's game, citing the importance of time for grief as opposed to focusing on an essentially meaningless football game, but Kansas City's coaching staff and captains were allegedly unanimous in their decision to carry on Sunday against Carolina. Before the game, all in attendance participated in a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence, an appropriate, meaningful gesture in light of Saturday's deaths. Steelers linebacker Larry Foote likely summed up the feelings of countless others in his post-game comments, asserting "I'm not going to speak positively about that guy. I hope he rests in peace. It doesn't matter that he played football. He's like anybody else. And this is something that, psychologically, we've got to get a handle on as a society. As a father, with a daughter, a sister and nieces, as men, we've got to do something about that type of violence against women." And we do. We must. For every widely publicized Kasandra Perkins or Rihanna, there are thousands of others, suffering in silence and fear. Where are their advocates? Who is their voice?
One immediate lesson we can take from all that happened was beautifully articulated by Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn. A target of mockery and scorn in his short NFL career (from myself included), a somber Quinn pondered greater societal problems that may have contributed not only to Belcher's actions but may affect each of our relationships. In a softspoken tone, he stated “we live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”
I'm certain most grief counselors would assert that Belcher chose to privately deal with whatever ailed him and that nothing any of his teammates said or did would have changed Saturday's outcome. But to take such a sentiment to heart in the face of such a tragedy would be immensely challenging. As human beings, we reflect on the wrongdoings or downfalls of our fellow man and can't help but wonder how we might have altered the course of events. And although Quinn may not have been able to prevent Belcher from murdering the mother of his child in cold blood, his point should not be taken lightly.
Perhaps instead of staring, paralyzed, at my computer screen for the better part of a Saturday morning, I should have been making the most of my time with family, friends and loved ones. There is now a three month-old baby girl, a victim of domestic violence in the truest sense, who will likely be raised by her grandmother, never to know the smiles, foibles, mannerisms, pet peeves or laughter of her parents. That was stolen from her. So perhaps for those of us lucky enough to have them, we should be more proactive about cherishing and cultivating our personal relationships. Because when it all comes down, all we truly have is one another.
The Kansas City Chiefs have announced they will be starting a fund for Zoey Belcher. The team will contribute to the fund, but it will also be open for public donations. As we learn more, we will be certain to share donation information.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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