Blame unlikely to fall on Chiefs in Jovan Belcher case


Drama continues this week in Kansas City as evidence surfaces regarding the allegations of player negligence by the Chiefs franchise, specifically in the case of Jovan Belcher. However, it’s becoming clear that the team might not be to blame for the player’s erratic behavior last year that ended in a murder-suicide on December 1, 2012.

Last week, Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepard, filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs stating that her son suffered increasingly violent mood swings during his time on the team that ultimately drove him to kill his girlfriend and himself on that December morning.

Shepard seeks judgment “in excess of $15,000 for actual damages, punitive damages, and/or aggravating circumstances” for her lawsuit, and hopes to prove that negligence of player care by the Kansas City Chiefs was the direct cause of her son’s death. However, winning her case is going to be exponentially more difficult than Shepard expected.

Shepard cited in her lawsuit that her son had a passion for a program called “Male Athletes Against Violence” during his college career and prior to his time on the Kansas City Chiefs. In the eyes of any bystander, this detail paints a picture of a man completely different than the one that drove to the Chiefs training facility last December and killed himself in front of the team’s coach and general manager.

However, according to Fox Sports, the entire story wasn’t revealed last week by Shepard’s plea to preserve the gentle character of her deceased son. During his time at the University of Maine, university police responded to two disturbances involving Belcher and his girlfriend at the time. In the first instance, Belcher sent his hand through a window because he was “upset by a girl.” Just a few months later, police returned when Belcher was heard through the university dorms having a heated discussion with his girlfriend at the time.

Belcher’s temper was nothing new in 2012, and his involvement in Male Athletes Against Violence seemed to have been an attempt by the university to keep Belcher in check, both as a student and as a representation of their school.

Furthermore, Belcher’s teammates at the University of Maine noted his tendencies for excessive alcohol consumption and its resulting behavior. These tendencies continued during Belcher’s time with the Kansas City Chiefs, and while the stresses of being an NFL athlete are increasingly high, it’s going to be difficult to place blame on the Kansas City Chiefs.

The only way that Belcher’s suicide can be pinned on the Chiefs is if Shepard’s lawsuit can prove that this was a foreseeable result of the trauma he suffered and that the team intentionally ignored this foresight. This will be tricky, and even if it’s proven that Belcher did incur CTE damage in his brain, the step of linking this to an intentional decision by the Chiefs franchise to ignore such damages will be almost impossible. Unless, of course, it comes forward that the Chiefs managerial staff had set parameters to overlook all trauma treatment as a part of their training regimen.

Should CTE be found in Belcher’s brain, the lawsuit filed by nine former players last month could gain serious momentum against the Chiefs. However, Shepard’s lawsuit, while a touching search to save her son’s honor, has a few extra hurdles that could unfortunately flat line attempts to receive her $15,000 from damages.

Luckily for the team, the Shepard lawsuit hasn’t caused major publicity repercussions for Kansas City. The draft is successfully moving along, and the team currently leads the Pro Football Writers of America’s all-league honors. Most likely, a verdict for Shepard’s lawsuit won’t come forward before next season, which will hopefully keep things running smoothly as the team prepares for 2014.

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