Tragedy struck in the NFL early Saturday morning with the news that a Kansas City Chiefs player committed suicide at the team's Arrowhead Stadium practice facility, after shooting and killing his girlfriend at home a short time earlier, SI.com has learned.
The player who shot himself is fourth-year linebacker Jovan Belcher, 25, Kansas City police have confirmed. There are no other known injuries at the Chiefs facility.
The Chiefs released a statement saying: "We can confirm that there was an incident at Arrowhead earlier this morning. We are cooperating with authorities in their investigation.''
Later in the day, team owner Clark Hunt issued his own statement, reading: "The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened by today's events, and our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families and friends affected by this unthinkable tragedy. We sincerely appreciate the expressions of sympathy and support we have received from so many in the Kansas City and NFL communities, and ask for continued prayers for the loved ones of those impacted.
"We will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and work to ensure that the appropriate counseling resources are available to all members of the organization."
According to police, Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, 22, at home around 8 a.m. CT, with the woman's mother present and a witness to the murder. Belcher then drove to the team facility, where he later shot and killed himself in the parking lot of the team complex, in front of GM Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel, as well as other team personnel. A KCPD spokesman said Pioli and Crennel tried to talk to Belcher, who thanked the men before taking his life. Belcher and his girlfriend had a three-month-old child.
The Chiefs (1-10) are scheduled to play at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday at noon CT, against the Carolina Panthers (3-8). One league source in the NFL office said officials were still trying to decide Saturday morning whether the game will be played on Sunday as scheduled. He said his guess was that the game would not be postponed or canceled, due to the complications of when to re-schedule the game in the remaining weeks of the season, or how a cancellation might affect the other 30 teams in the league in terms of competitive fairness.
"There is a ripple effect,'' the source said. "It's not simply two teams affected here. I'm not sure in recent history we've ever just canceled a game. But what's under consideration are all the factors involved if they don't play, when do they play? It's a pretty tight schedule to try and make a game up at some later point. These things have to be thought through. Nobody wants to play a football game right now if you're a Kansas City Chief, but what does that do to the other 30 teams? It gets a little complicated from a schedule standpoint and a competitive standpoint.
The league source said the NFL did not feel it was mandatory to make a decison in regards to the game before Carolina boarded its mid-day flight to Kansas City. "If the Panthers have to fly back from Kansas City without having played the game, it's not that big of an issue to deal with,'' the source said. "We'd rather take the time to think through all the ramifications.''
Kansas City mayor Sly James said that he's spoken with the Chiefs, who believe
Belcher was a fourth-year linebacker who went undrafted out of the University of Maine in 2009. He signed with Kansas City as a collegiate free agent after the draft.