Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher committed a murder-suicide Saturday leaving his three-month baby orphaned. NFL media and players came together in a show of support which brought out both the good and the bad with some showing a complete disconnect between perception and reality.
I can’t imagine that there are a lot of public relations classes aimed at how to handle this kind of a situation. Yet sometimes you just have to use common sense when commenting on something so polarizing. That is why I was absolutely stunned Saturday reading an outpour of sympathetic messages on Twitter from NFL players and the media that cover the NFL for not Kasandra Perkins, not the three-month old orphan but the Kansas City Chiefs.
One tweet after another had a player of media member tweeting “prayers to the Kansas City Chiefs” in the wake of the awful tragedy. It would have been okay if these same players and media members used a general message to send prayers and thoughts to those affected by the tragedy, and to their credit many did. But to those that sent numerous tweets wishing nobody but the Chiefs prayers, shame on you.
Let’s put it into perspective for a second. Say my wife works for Johnson and Johnson and she comes home and decides to shoot me and then take her life, leaving my baby girl orphaned. Would you expect anyone immediately after the tragedy to send prayers to Johnson and Johnson or whatever company she is working for? I mean just the idea itself sounds like a joke. But oh no sports fans, it gets better.
The Kansas City Chiefs played a game the next day. The Chiefs left Belcher’s locker room intact as something of a shrine. Players told the media after the game that they not only used Belcher’s locker as inspiration, but that they played the game Sunday because “Jovan would have wanted it that way.” I almost lost my lunch in disgust. But oh no, it gets even better!
Chiefs star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe posted a picture of himself on Twitter Sunday night. Bowe was wearing a t-shirt honoring Belcher with the caption “This one was for you.” It was at that point where I just about gave up thinking that anyone in the Chiefs organization had a clue.
I understand that this man may have been their friend but we are talking about a cold blooded killer. As a relatively new father, I couldn’t imagine purposely making my child an orphan now or ever. It takes a real sick individual to do that to a baby, as well as shoot a mother’s daughter right in front of her. This is not a man that should be honored by a team, a player, or anyone else.
If this was a case about anyone but an NFL player we’d be talking about the victim today. The murderer would be torched in the media and by the public. Media members wouldn’t be sending prayers out to the murderer’s place of business but instead working hard to set up some kind of fund for the orphaned baby (which the Chiefs are reportedly doing). The lack of perspective shown here by many (not all) is just heart breaking.
I want to make sure to reinforce that not all of the media was this disconnected. Former NFL player Tom Jackson called Belcher the “murderer” that he is on ESPN’s Sunday Countdown show. Former NFL player Deion Sanders tweeted out that he sent well wishes to everyone affected by the tragedy. Chiefs QB Brady Quinn had some eloquent words about the horror on Sunday when speaking to the media. Some of them got it, most of them didn’t.
I hate to compare tragedies because both are different but the only thing remotely close to this was WWE wrestler Chris Benoit murdering his wife and son before taking his own life. Once the details of the case made it to the WWE, the office reacted immediately and Benoit’s name has not been seen or heard since and this is a guy that had a bigger impact on his profession than Belcher. I couldn’t even imagine the public relations nightmare if the WWE after knowing the details of the case left his locker intact and had their players memorializing Benoit on t-shirts. What Benoit did was worse taking the life of his son, but a murderer is a murderer and there is something of a precedent set here.
Driving in to work on Monday morning I was listening to the NFL channel on Sirius and a caller called in and said just about the exact same thing I am blogging about here. The hosts reacted while agreeing with him, but seeking compassion as to wanting to know how a guy like Belcher could just snap. I can’t say I disagree but I think it is a little too soon to start talking about compassion for Belcher. It just doesn’t stop.