Did Chiefs turn Belcher into a murderer? It’s very complicated

12/31/2013 5:23 PM

01/01/2014 5:35 PM

Jovan Belcher died a murderer on Dec. 1, 2012. But did the Kansas City Chiefs help make him one?

That’s a truly provocative question raised Tuesday by the

wrongful-death lawsuit filed

by the mother of Belcher, a former Chiefs linebacker.

And let’s be clear: Everyone who watches games in the National Football League will have a theory about the answer to that question.

But a lot more information will have to be gathered to actually prove that the Chiefs were accomplices in ignoring some of Belcher’s alleged concussions or ignoring their responsibilities to his well-being.

Many people will give the Chiefs the benefit of the doubt, especially given the violent way Belcher killed his girlfriend (leaving their daughter without parents) and then killed himself outside Arrowhead Stadium.

Belcher’s brutal acts do not make him a sympathetic figure, even in light of the horrible way the NFL and many teams’ officials for so many years either ignored or did not take seriously enough players’ reports of head injuries and concussions.

Still, I urge you to

read this incredibly detailed

— and perhaps prescient — story by Jeff Pearlman about Belcher.

It contains a number of quotes about the alleged concussions, the drinking to dull the pain and some of the other problems that Belcher had in the last few years of his life as a Chief, at least as recounted by some of his former teammates and friends.

Make no mistake about this point, either: The Pearlman story doesn’t absolve Belcher of the responsibilities he had to speak up for himself when injured and, even more notably, of the responsibilities he had to be a law-abiding person, not a murderer.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday basically says Chiefs officials ignored Belcher’s concussions and symptoms of concussions. In that manner, the lawsuit follows the general practice of the many other lawsuits filed in recent years regarding concussions in the National Football League.


has tried to put some of these cases behind

it, but that’s proving very difficult to do. The Belcher lawsuit is the third filed against the Chiefs in recent weeks, alleging the team ignored head injuries suffered by their players. Belcher is the only wrongful death suit.

Again, making what would be the “right” decision in the case of Jovan Belcher will be very difficult to do. But that’s what the jury system is for in America.

Along the way, we might get more answers about how the Chiefs and the NFL once handled and are now handling head injury cases.

That would be a very good thing for football fans to know, especially as they go rooting for their “gladiators” on the gridiron in the future.


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