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home : columns : columns August 21, 2017

12/5/2012 11:52:00 AM
Series of wrongs don't make things right

Joel Alvstad
Sports Editor

The sports world was shaken Saturday morning when it was learned that a professional football player had taken his own life in the parking lot of his team's practice facility.
In the hours after the death of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, it was learned that Belcher had first murdered his girlfriend with whom he had a three-month-old daughter. He then drove to Arrowhead Stadium to the practice facility, where he was confronted by the Chiefs' general manager, head coach and at least one other coach before turning the gun on himself as police arrived.
Some reports on Monday say that Belcher had no history of violence or mental illness. Others stated that the girlfriend was concerned about the state of their relationship.
How is it that a supposed "model citizen" as his agent called him is capable of such a violent act?
How could the coach and general manager move forward after witnessing what they witnessed?
How would the organization handle the situation? And how on Earth could the team play the next day?
The answers to those questions shed new light on a major problem in sports, particularly football. Cases of domestic violence seem to be higher with professional athletes than with the general population, but little is being done about it.
The Chiefs organization opted to play Sunday's game against Carolina as scheduled. Coach Romeo Crennell, who witnessed the suicide, said the game was "a chance for everyone to forget their misery for a few hours."
Many have criticized the Chiefs for not postponing the game a day or two, but Crennell pointed out that the team voted to play on, which would give them more time to mourn after the game.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs organization had two conflicting messages regarding how it handled the situation. Belcher's uniform was left hanging in his locker. Yes, while he was a member of the team, I would have a hard time honoring someone who had murdered his girlfriend before taking his own life.
Prior to the game, the Chiefs held a moment of silence in memory of victims of domestic violence. They did not mention Belcher by name. That was the right thing to do.
Likewise, players were discouraged from putting Belcher's number on their helmets as tribute. Again, right move by the organization.
But this situation brings to light the scourge on our society of domestic violence, and how it can become deadly.
Society as a whole has turned a blind eye toward domestic violence, taking the motto of what happens at home stays at home.
Nearly one-fourth of women will be assaulted by someone they love. That comes from a society where young men are not taught that it is never OK to hit a girl. That comes from a society where 50% of all marriages end in divorce. And, sadly, that comes from a society where athletes (not just professional athletes) have a sense of power and entitlement brought about by money, fame, ego and sometimes artificially boosted testosterone.
Domestic violence far too often slips through the cracks and stays hidden until it involves a professional athlete.
Domestic violence isn't just an NFL problem or a sports problem. It's an American problem.
And perhaps that is what is saddest of all - knowing that we, as a society, are failing victims and not helping perpetrators get the help they desperately need.

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