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Mat Matters: NFL handled murder/suicide differently than WWE did with Benoit
By MATTHEW ASHER - SLAM! Wrestling


Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers players form a prayer circle after the Chiefs’ win in a NFL football game in Kansas City, Missouri December 2, 2012. The previous day, Chiefs’ linebacker Jovan Belcher killed himself after fatally shooting his girlfriend in an action witnessed by head coach Romeo Crennel and other Chiefs personnel. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

In the wake of a murder-suicide, should there be a standard protocol on how to deal with their deaths? On one hand, the fact that someone has now died needs to be acknowledged but is it always proper to mourn or grieve that loss, especially when they are responsible for the death of another human being?

The recent murder-suicide of Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins reminded me of the death of Chris Benoit and his family. As I watched the Belcher incident take form, I was amazed at the parallels between the Belcher and Benoit murder-suicide situations.

This article is not meant to give any answers, but rather to ask the question if either the NFL or the WWE did the right thing regarding either of these horrific incidents. Is there a difference between the deaths of a professional athlete and a professional wrestler that should make us react in a different way than the other? Should the number of victims have any factor? Does the way the killings occurred matter?

Simply, is there a right way to handle this situation or does each situation need to be addressed individually?

So I don't go back and forth, here are a few undeniable facts regarding both Benoit and Belcher.

1. Both men worked tirelessly to reach the upper echelons of their respected professions.

2. Both men made a living using their physicality.

3. Both incidents ended with both parents of their child dead.

4. With both men killing the mother of their children, by definition it makes both men murderers.

On November 30, 2012, both Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, were alive. Their child, three-month-old Zoey Belcher had a family. Cut to less than 24 hours later and Zoey is now an orphan.

In the aftermath of his death, one of the bigger questions surrounding the incident was not about the lives his death destroyed, but simply if the Chiefs next game against the Carolina Panthers would be delayed since the killings took place less than 48 hours before the Carolina game.

The fact that people only seemed concerned about delaying a meaningless game (both Kansas City and Carolina were already out of contention for this season's playoffs) and not how this tragedy affected the Belcher and Perkins families shocked me. I thought the right thing to do was to play the game as intended.

The question of if the Chiefs would postpone their game against the Panthers was short lived. Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel briefly spoke with his team captains. "I thought that was the best thing for us to do because that's what we do," Crennel said. "If for no other reason it takes our minds off our misery for a few hours. And that's what it did. It helped us do that."

The day Benoit and his family's death was announced, in June 2007, I was the web editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, that night in charge of promoting the top stories. I first heard of Benoit's death on WWE's website simply stating that Chris, his wife Nancy and son Daniel were all found dead at their home in Georgia. Rather than carry on with the planned episode of Monday Night Raw, the WWE held a tribute to Benoit showcasing some of his most memorable matches.

However, as the hours went by, it became clearer that this was not a triple-murder, but rather that Benoit took the lives of his wife and son before taking his own. Vince McMahon appeared before the taping of ECW the next night, simply stating that "Tonight's show will be dedicated to everyone who has been affected by this terrible incident." McMahon further stated that this show would be the first step in the healing process.  

Since McMahon's video clip that night, the WWE's "healing process" includes doing everything in its power to distance itself from Chris Benoit. Benoit merchandise was taken off the WWE website, links to his profile were deleted and even the mention of his iron man-esque Royal Rumble win have been stricken from the WWE record books.

Like the WWE, the Kansas City Chiefs held a moment of silence, not for the Belcher and Perkins families, but for victims of domestic abuse. But unlike the WWE, the Chiefs, and more specifically the NFL, are not trying to erase Belcher from the record books. Belcher's jersey was prominently displayed in the area which was his locker before and after the game.

While Javon did have friends on the team, was it right to honor a killer? Is the only reason he is not referred to as a murderer because he was a professional athlete? Is that a good or bad thing?

Is there a reason that Belcher, for the time being, is not being ostracized for his actions? One of the questions I posed earlier in this article was about the number of victims immediately affected by this. Benoit's murder-suicide left three people dead while Belcher spared his daughter, leaving just him and his girlfriend dead.

Is it easier for the WWE to sweep Benoit under the rug because people still believe professional wrestling is fake? Does the NFL have to acknowledge Belcher because of the popularity of the sport? What about Kasandra? Will she only be remembered as a footnote in this tragedy? Will her death spark some research or charity devoted to making sure this never happens again? Is this the first incident in a long line of other ugly ones? Of course, what will happen to Zoey? Will she be able to one day deal with the truth of her parent's deaths?

I don't know if there is a right answer, but what I do know is both incidents need to be taken seriously to prevent similar ones from occurring in the future.

RELATED LINKS

  • Chris Benoit double murder/suicide section
  • Previous Mat Matters Editorial columns

    Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist living in Atlanta, GA and is hoping for some good discussion about this article. You can follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook.