Serious issues in the NFL, not usually the topics that arise from a football game, just won’t go away.
That was brutally apparent after this weekend, when Jovan Belcher, a linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs, shot and killed his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself as his team was preparing to play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The horrific murder-suicide, which left a three-month-old girl an orphan, has cast another pall over the NFL, where the newsworthy events are not always confined to the playing field.
Kansas City Police, in an incident report released on Monday, said that firearms found at the couple’s home where Kasandra M. Perkins, 22, was found dead on the floor of the master bathroom Saturday morning, were all legally registered to Belcher.
At halftime of Sunday Night Football on NBC, normally the occasion for jocular chit-chat and highlights from games earlier in the day, broadcaster Bob Costas used the national pulpit to advocate for tighter gun control, for which viewers later criticized him.
Referencing a column by Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports, Costas urged viewers to think about the broader scope of the crime.
“In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows?” Costas said. “But here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe.
“If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
The crime also puts more pressure on a league in which domestic violence among its players is commonplace to the point where commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged that something needs to be done.
According to data collected by the San Diego Union-Tribune, since 2000 more than 500 NFL players have been arrested for domestic-violence complaints, fighting in bars, and gun-possession charges.
“We are going to do some things to combat this problem because some of the numbers on DUIs and domestic violence are going up and that disturbs me,” Goodell was quoted as saying earlier this year by CBSSports.com.
“When there’s a pattern of mistakes, something has got to change.”
The NFL is also facing another image crises in the form of concussions.
Thousands of former players touched by concussions and brain injuries have banded together and launched a massive lawsuit against the league, alleging that the NFL failed to provide information linking football-related head trauma and long-term health issues.
It is not yet known what prompted Belcher to shoot his girlfriend and then turn the gun on himself.
But his death follows those of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, both former NFL players who died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds and who were both suffering long-term effects from concussions.
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said on Monday that Belcher was a player who did not have “a long concussion history.”
Kansas City Police said that Perkins died from apparent gunshot wounds, but did not say how many times she had been shot.
On Saturday morning, Belcher drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility near Arrowhead Stadium, where he was met by Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel in the parking lot, and Belcher thanked them for all they’d done for him.
The police report said that when officers arrived about 8 a.m. they saw several people in the parking lot outside the entrance to the practice facility.
“As they approached, a subject later identified as Jovan Belcher, observed their presence and moved to an area behind a vehicle,” the report said. “From that position Belcher shot himself one time in the head.”
Editor's Note: An earlier online version of this story gave an incorrect age for Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins's daughter. This online version has been corrected.