June 20, 2018
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Belcher murder-suicide places focus on domestic violence in NFL, society

Bill Wippert | AP
Bill Wippert | AP
Kansas City Chiefs' Jovan Belcher (59) stands on the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., in September. Police say Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager.
By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Saturday’s murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher has again brought to light the ever-present problem of domestic violence.

It is a major issue in the United States and is one that has involved a number of high-profile people, including NFL players and other professional athletes.

Belcher became the most recent NFL player to become a domestic violence statistic early Saturday morning when the former University of Maine All-American shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at the home they shared in Kansas City.

The 25-year-old committed suicide a short time later.

Statistics available from the U.S. Bureau of Justice reveal a disturbing trend in regard to domestic violence. They indicate that every day in this country, an average of three women are killed by an intimate partner.

A columnist at the Washington Times pointed out that given those statistics, 12 more women may have been killed by their partner in the three days since the Belcher tragedy.

BOJ statistics also reveal that among U.S. divorces, which still occur in approximately half of all marriages, violence is the reason stated for seeking the legal split in 20 percent of cases.

Some high-profile members of the media have pointed to Belcher’s ownership of guns — he reportedly was the legal owner of at least two handguns — as having been the key element in the murder-suicide.

Bob Costas of NBC gave a 90-second dissertation on the subject at halftime of Sunday night’s NFL game between Philadelphia and Dallas. Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote a column Sunday during which he also said the gun was the X-factor in the Belcher tragedy.

St. Louis prosecutor Jennifer Joyce said blaming the gun is missing the point in this case.

“This is not a gun issue. This is a domestic violence issue,” Joyce told KMOX-TV in St. Louis. “Domestic violence isn’t so much about the weapon; it’s about the relationship and dynamic between two people.”

Media reports out of Kansas City continue to portray the relationship between Belcher and Perkins as strained and involving frequent arguments about the couple’s problems and money issues.

Belcher appears to have had a history of conflicts involving women with whom he was involved. One occurred during his freshman year at UMaine in 2006 when he punched out a window because he was angry about a woman.

Belcher dealt with his final relationship problem with two heinous and irreversible acts.

Although all perpetrators of domestic violence, including professional athletes, can’t be painted with the same brush, there is evidence the NFL has experienced more than its share of such issues.

A database developed by The San Diego Union-Tribune shows some of the NFL’s numerous brushes with the law.

According to Slate.com, 21 of the 32 NFL teams have had at least one player who’s been charged at some point with domestic violence or sexual assault in 2012.

However, some of the charges were later withdrawn, which the report said is common in domestic violence cases, and some players were acquitted.

Taking into account there are approximately 1,700 active players in the NFL, some 2 percent of them have faced abuse or violence charges.

Slate.com further pointed out that BOJ statistics indicate the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the U.S. declined 64 percent from 1994 to 2010.

Because of its high profile, the NFL has attempted to institute measures in an effort to combat domestic violence.

In July, the NFL provided a grant to establish the NFL Life Line for current and former NFL players, coaches, team and league staff, and their family members who may be in crisis.

The NFL Life Line is a free, confidential and independently operated resource that connects callers with trained counselors who can help individuals work through any personal or emotional crisis. It is available 24 hours a day.

Commissioner Roger Goodell also unveiled a reinforced mental health initiative for players, coaches and staff.

The moves appear to have come in response to the suicide of former NFL All-Pro Junior Seau, who shot himself in May. That came two years after he had assaulted his girlfriend, then drove his car off a cliff.

“One of the biggest things that we are trying to do here (in the NFL) is to change the culture, where people realize that it’s OK to seek out help for mental health issues,” Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s executive vice president of human resources/chief diversity officer, told NBC News.

“We were very deliberate in … making the point that mental health is part of total wellness, that it’s OK to seek out help for mental health issues because that’s part of your overall well-being,” he added.

The new and improved safety net did not catch Belcher. According to the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs had helped he and Perkins receive counseling.

A Kansas City police spokesman said the team was “bending over backward” to help the couple.

It appears that no amount of intervention is enough to prevent some fatal episodes of domestic violence.

There has been much discussion in the wake of the Belcher murder-suicide about the possible effects of concussions on the subsequent behavior and mental acuity of those who suffer them.

Belcher reportedly had sustained a concussion during his final NFL game against Cincinnati on Nov. 18, according to a source who spoke to Deadspin.com. He said Belcher was “dazed and suffering from memory loss” after that injury.

Belcher did not play in the Chiefs’ Nov. 25 contest, presumably because of lingering issues from the concussion, although team officials have not confirmed that.

However, Craig Stevens of Northeastern University in Boston sponsors a Sport in Society group that scoured reports involving male athletes and violence. The group determined there is no definitive proof that contact sports lead to violent behavior.

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