Public editor

Only positive memories of Derrick Thomas?

Updated: 2013-09-24T23:18:31Z

By Derek Donovan

The Kansas City Star

There are several topics that readers have brought up many times through the years, yet I’ve been loath to air them publicly. However, multiple readers have expressed a similar sentiment today about a clear public figure, so this is about as good a time as I’ll have. And before proceeding, I acknowledge and accept pre-emptive criticism that it’s in questionable taste for me to write about it.

Tonight, NFL Films will premiere a new documentary on Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, who died after a traffic accident in 2000. Today’s Sports Daily has a story that interviews several fans about their fond memories of Thomas.

“I think the article is totally inappropriate,” said one caller who declined to give her name, but claimed to be a relative of one of the five women who fathered Thomas’ seven children.

“He might have been a star on the field,” said another caller, but “he was a disgrace off the field.”

Now, I never met Thomas and I certainly don’t think people can generally be reductively classified as “good” or “bad.”

But it is also true from The Star’s own reporting in the past that Thomas was a complicated figure. Witnesses to the 2000 highway crash that ultimately resulted in his death reported he was traveling at a high rate of speed and weaving in and out of traffic on snow-covered roads. Passenger Michael D. Tellis died on the scene as well.

Missouri lawmakers also debated naming a section of highway after Thomas in the spring of 2000, with then-Sen. Peter Kinder citing the objections above.

We all know the old saying: Never speak ill of the dead. But does today’s story inappropriately gloss over some of the negative aspects of Thomas’ life? I think you can argue that position.

To reach Derek Donovan, call 816-234-4487 weekday mornings or send email to publiceditor@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/KCStarPublic.

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