By Herbie Teope
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs took the field at Arrowhead Stadium for Sunday’s game against the Panthers a little more than 24 hours after a murder-suicide stunned the organization and city.
According to police, Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, on Saturday morning, an act that made an orphan of their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey. Belcher then drove to the team’s practice facility where he committed suicide in the parking lot in front of Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel.
The shocking events resulted in mixed emotions for some Chiefs fans filling the pregame Arrowhead Stadium parking lot. Subdued thoughts replaced a period normally reserved for festive moods, as reflections turned to the victim and members of the Chiefs staff.
“I feel for Pioli and Romeo,” Meredith Bailey of Marceline, Mo., said. “They had to watch that. No matter who it is, watching somebody kill themselves can’t be easy. I feel for them and I feel for the girl’s family. I feel nothing for Belcher.”
Chris Van Fleet of Independence, Mo., agreed.
“The more I got to think of it, the less I felt toward the loss of the football player as opposed to the loss of the people that are really the true victims,” Fleet said. “It’s bad two people had to lose their lives, but one was obviously a murder victim and the other one took the cowardly way out.”
For their part, the Chiefs didn’t publicly acknowledge Belcher before kickoff. Instead, fans inside the stadium observed a moment of silence for victims of domestic abuse.
That gesture proved fine for Brett Carty of St. Louis, but he added it was unfortunate for some sports media coverage to focus so much on Belcher.
“The person to mourn is the victim,” Carty said. “It’s news when someone who plays the game is involved in something like this. I understand why ESPN and everybody else does it, but at the same time I feel for the victim.”
Still, there were questions immediately after Saturday’s tragic events if the Chiefs and Panthers would play Sunday’s game. But the Chiefs, after input from team captains, informed the league the contest would go on as scheduled.
While debate raged whether the game should’ve been played, some fans believed getting the players on the field was the correct decision.
“I actually think it’s the total right thing to do,” Tom Moore of Kansas City, Mo., said. “It’s the only thing, at least for a short period of time, to get it off the players’ minds and go out and keep the routine they had, and then after the game start truly going through the grieving process.”
Mike Hopkins, who made the trip from Iowa on Saturday night, said he also agreed with the team’s decision to play based on his personal experience with a family suicide.
“I know going through my own tragedies, getting back together with the people they consider their brothers — their family — it’s the best thing,” Hopkins said. “You don’t want them at home thinking about this right now. You want them in the locker room. You want them out there being the brothers that they are.”
Meanwhile, factions of the Chiefs fan base have been divided in the last month as the team suffers through one of the worst seasons in recent memory. However, differences of opinion on the team’s direction or how to fix the problems were set aside on Sunday.
The plane pulling a protest banner over Arrowhead Stadium during the pregame hours of the last three home games was grounded. The hand-held signs calling for front office and coaching staff changes weren’t visible in the parking lots or inside the stadium.
Saturday’s incidents unified a fan base on Sunday for a single purpose; rally behind the Chiefs in their time of need.
“I’m out here more Sundays than not,” Andre Smith of Kansas City, Mo., said. “Saturday made it more necessary for me to come out to support the team.”
The Chiefs announced the attendance of Sunday’s game at 62,860. While there were plenty of empty seats, many in attendance wore red.
Additionally, fans were treated to an entertaining game, as the Chiefs snapped an eight-game losing streak and secured the first home win of the season by defeating the Panthers, 27-21.
The Chiefs played an emotional game after the loss of one of their own and the fans were 100 percent behind them.
“I appreciated the involvement of the crowd,” Crennel said during his postgame media session. “And I think our players knew that the crowd was supporting them and was behind them and wanted them to do well.”
Herbie Teope is the Chiefs' correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.