'Best for us' to play Sunday's game after tragedy, Chiefs coach says
Published Sunday, December 2, 2012 2:31PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 3, 2012 12:34AM EST
One day after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before taking his own life, his team put aside its shock and grief to claim a win over the Carolina Panthers on home turf.
Prior to Sunday’s kick-off, fans at Arrowhead Stadium observed a moment of silence to honour victims of domestic abuse and their families. Belcher, 25, and his slain girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, were not mentioned by name.
Despite the horrific tragedy, the team decided to carry on with Sunday’s game as scheduled. Fans at the stadium participated in the usual pre-game activities including playing catch and tailgating, but The Associated Press reported a quieter than usual crowd at the stadium.
Belcher fatally shot Perkins at a residence Saturday, and then drove to his team’s practice facility near the stadium and shot himself in the head in front of Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and another employee. Belcher had thanked Pioli and Crennel for giving him an opportunity to play professional football before taking his own life.
The tragedy that had played out just 24 hours prior did not stray from fans’ minds on Sunday.
Ty Rowton said the memory of Belcher shooting himself “will never, ever leave” Crennel and Pioli.
“To have to witness that, I don’t think you wish that on your worst enemy,” Rowton told AP.
Fans angry with the team’s recent performance on the field set aside their grievances, wearing the team’s red colours rather than black Chiefs clothing, as they had been doing in protest of a recent losing streak.
On the sidelines too, were moments of kindness.
After scoring a touchdown, Chiefs’ running back Peyton Hillis handed the ball to Crennel and gave him a big hug.
After the game, the Chiefs coach became emotional speaking about the decision to play Sunday.
“As far as playing the game, I thought that was the best for us to do. Because that’s what we do,” Crennel said, tears forming in his eyes. “We’re football players and football coaches and that’s what we do. We play on Sunday.”
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s game, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt expressed his condolences to the families affected by the tragedy. Belcher and Perkins had a three-month-old daughter.
“We lost two members of the Chiefs family," Hunt told AP."Kasandra was part of our Chiefs women's organization, and had done things in the community with the CWO group. They have a daughter now, Zoe, who is an orphan. I can't imagine how difficult that's going to be for her."
The Chiefs are expected to start a foundation to help the infant girl.
Flying out from his home in Dallas, Hunt had spent Saturday evening with the team.
"I wanted to be there with the team, with the coaches, to let them know I love them and support them and know what they're going through, and particularly the guys who were present in the parking lot when Jovan took his life. I know this has to be incredibly difficult."
Meanwhile, Kansas City police have yet to release a motive for Perkins’ killing, but indicated the couple had recently been arguing.
With files from The Associated Press