The Kansas City Chiefs overcame “our misery for a few hours” with a victory at their stadium where teammate Jovan Belcher killed himself a day earlier.
The Chiefs defeated the Carolina Panthers 27-21 in a National Football League game yesterday at Arrowhead Stadium, where Belcher took his own life in a parking lot after police say he fatally shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins.
Belcher, 25, shot himself about 10 yards from General Manager Scott Pioli, linebackers coach Gary Gibbs and head coach Romeo Crennel, who yesterday met with team captains before deciding the game would go on as scheduled.
“We are football players and football coaches, and we play football on Sunday,” Crennel said in a televised news conference after the game. “If for no other reason, it takes our mind off our misery for a few hours, and that’s what it did.”
Linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was close to Belcher, said the tragedy shows teammates “need to talk to each other more as men, not just as football players.”
“Generally, men don’t really show their feelings, we don’t talk about what’s going on and don’t show emotion,” he said after the game. “To have an act like this to go on that could have been avoided, as a teammate we need to do more making sure the teammate is OK.”
Fans observed a moment of silence for all victims of domestic violence before the game. Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt said after the contest that grief counselors are being made available to players and coaches -- including Crennel and Gibbs.
“Counseling services will be available to them as well,” Hunt said. “As an organization, we really want to make sure we stay focused on them. They went into the mode of, ‘Hey, we have to play a game tomorrow and we have got a job to do,’ but I also know they have a lot of pain on the inside and we need to be attentive to that and make sure it is being addressed.”
The NFL historically has been reluctant to postpone games.
It stayed with the schedule in November 2007 after Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was fatally shot by an intruder in his Miami home. In 2010, the Denver Broncos played a game scheduled six days after the suicide of wide receiver Kenny McKinley.
The NFL also went ahead with games in November 1963, just 48 hours after the assassination of President Kennedy, a move that then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle later said was the biggest mistake of his career.
In 1978, the 49ers hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in a “Monday Night Football” game hours after San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot to death by another city supervisor, Dan White.
Perkins, 22, and Belcher had a 3-month-old daughter. Belcher’s mother, who lives at the home where the shooting occurred, called police.
The Chiefs (2-10), who are in last place in the American Football Conference’s West division, ended an eight-game losing streak.
“I was worried they would not be mentally prepared, I didn’t know what our mental state would be,” Crennel told reporters. “Those guys were able to keep it together and pull it off.”
Crennel, 65, said he would not discuss what it was like to witness Belcher shooting himself, saying “it wasn’t a pretty sight, and so I’m choosing not to talk about it.”
The coach also said the victory does not mean he or his players will be able to quickly put the shootings behind them.
“After we leave here, we’ll still work through the tragedy that unfolded,” he said. “It’s tough when circumstances happen, you can’t undo them. Knowing that it’s not over today, that it will still go on tomorrow and the next day and the next day. But life will go on as well and that’s what we have to do.”