This is an article that I did not plan to write about. It was a topic that completely fell in my lap on Saturday morning. I woke up, opened up my iPhone, and saw the headline involving the murder-suicide in Kansas City involving Jovan Belcher. My first reaction was in shock followed by sadness. I did not know the victims, but I felt very sad for everyone involved.
As a Sport Psychology consultant, the wheels started turning as I read more and more about this tragedy and understanding everything involved. I started examining the facts from what I could gather from the National Sports media. There are still a lot of unanswered questions.
There are different facets within this tragedy – Family, Coaching Staff and Team Management, Teammates, and the Future of Football and Head Injuries. In this article, I plan to examine each one of them in depth.
This facet of the tragedy has not been covered by the media. The lack of information is mostly this due to maintaining the privacy of the family after this horrible event along with allowing the local law enforcement to complete their own investigation. Unfortunately, Jovan’s mother saw her own son murder the mother of her grandchild, Kasandra Perkins. Not only will be dealing with the death of her own child, she will have to deal with witnessing a horrific crime. My thoughts and prayers are with her as she
works through the emotional and psychology challenges ahead.
Jovan also left behind his 3-month old child without a mother and father. Sadly, the family will have to explain to this child what happened. It will be very difficult discussion because it will be a moment when the tragedy will be resurfaced again.
2. Coaching Staff and Management
The coaching staff and management have had to make a lot of difficult decisions both during the tragedy and afterwards. Unfortunately, both Kansas City head coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli witnessed Blecher take his own life on Saturday morning even though they made many attempts to stop him from doing so. Before Belcher took his own life, he thanked Pioli and Crennel for giving him a chance in the NFL. Then Blecher turned away and pulled the trigger. (Source: Fox News) According to Fox News, Darin Snapp, a public information officer at the Kansas City Police Department, told reporters outside Arrowhead. “He never threatened them. They talked for a little bit.”
Both Pioli and Crennel will have a very difficult road ahead of them after witnessing a traumatic act. I believe that it is very important for them to receive counseling to deal with what they saw and also deal with any guilt or trauma from what they witnessed. Both of them will also have the difficult act of going back to the area where Blecher took his own life and revisit it. It will very difficult, but very necessary to be able to move on. The sooner that they receive the therapy the better the benefit will be for them mentally and psychologically.
I know that there was a lot of controversy over Chiefs co-owner and CEO Clark Hunt’s decision to have the team play on Sunday. Professionally and personally, I believe that Hunt made the right decision. The players needed to play so they do not feel stagnated and stationary after the tragedy. I believe that just focusing solely on the tragedy will not help everyone involved. It will help with improving the healing process mentally.
After the tragedy, Belcher’s teammates will be dealing with quite a bit of grief. They will be grieving the loss of teammate. They will also be grieving of a friend. Going forward, the team needs to continue playing as a team and create a bond to help everyone involved. Teamwork will be very important during the grieving process. The players will not feel alone during the grieving process. I also believe that counseling will be an added benefit for his teammates to better deal with the tragedy. Like with the coaching staff and management, the sooner that they receive the therapy the better.
One positive action that Blecher's teammates has taken involves setting up a fund for his child that was left behind without both parents. I believe that this is a very positive way for his teammates to do something positive in light of a horrible tragedy.
4. Future of Football and Head Injuries
I believe that this tragedy in relation to the future of football still has some open questions and concerns. First, there were questions whether this tragedy was caused by Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Most of the former or current players dealing with it had been in the NFL for long careers with multiple head injuries. In Blecher’s case, he only had one head injury and was only in the NFL for a total of 4 years. Professionally, I believe that there needs to be additional research and protocols to help those who are dealing with head injuries. I do understand that the NFL has made major changes during the past season and has been
significantly stricter with those who have had a significant head injury. Unfortunately, data from these policy changes will be not be out for many years and may be too late for some players including Blecher.
As I said during the beginning of this article, there are still a lot of questions that have been left unanswered. Hopefully, there can be additional research and services for players to prevent future tragedies like in Kansas City. It is not worth the pain and emotional trauma that it causes.