Jovan Belcher and Other Sports-Related Killings: It’s Not Over Until The Victim Blaming Stops
Above is part of the nearly ten
seven-minute exchange between Jovan Belcher and the Kansas City fuzz in the hours before Belcher killed himself and Kassandra Perkins, his “other girlfriend” and the mother of his three-month old daughter. Belcher was parked outside the home of the woman he called his girlfriend, Brittni Glass, in the wee wee hours of the morning. A local TV station transcribed some of the conversation:
The officers then ask Belcher where he was planning on going.
Officer: Where are you headed? Upstairs in this building? So you aren’t going to be driving anywhere? [...]
Officer: You just need to go upstairs, dude. That’s going to be your best bet. We’re going to cut you a break. [...]
Officer: You know you got a lot riding, and you have a lot to lose.
According to police, Belcher said he was “waiting for his girlfriend” outside the building. A police spokesperson told 41 Action News earlier this week that Belcher may have been drinking before the officers found him, but he did not appear intoxicated and was very cooperative.
In the video, the officers make sure Belcher will not be driving anywhere soon.
Officer: Call your girl and head back upstairs for awhile.
Officer: I say we try to stay up there for the night, sound cool?
Belcher: Man, y’all don’t understand. I have to deal with my other girl, man.
Officer: I understand how that’s working, but you’re passing out in the car… (inaudible)
Belcher: I wasn’t driving.
Officer: I understand you weren’t driving, but you are in the car and the car is running.
After that exchange, Belcher thanked the officers.
Police said Belcher dialed a number on his cellphone, and a woman came out of the apartment complex and let him in.
Yeah. Jovan Belcher seems calm. Rational. (One wishes that all cops could be this way towards regular black men and boys who aren’t sports figures, too, but I digress.) But one has to wonder, in hindsight, what was really in his mind with two women, a baby, and his mom, and who knows what and who else. But like I said about another murder suicide during the holiday season a while back, nobody had to die.
Friends said the couple argued frequently, including after Perkins returned at 1 a.m. from a Trey Songz concert at the Midland Theatre on the night of November 30. After the argument, Perkins went to the Power and Light District, an entertainment area by the Midland and Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. Belcher was also in the Power and Light District with a different woman. After losing the woman in the crowd, Belcher drove to her apartment, but she was not home. Police found him there at 2:50 a.m. after receiving a 911 call about a suspicious person in a car parked on Armour Boulevard. He told police he was waiting for his girlfriend and forgot the code to her apartment. The police discussed the temporary tags on the car and urged him to go inside the building, saying they were “trying to cut [him] a break here.” Belcher did not smell of alcohol and was not slurring his words, police said. He was later buzzed into the building by neighbors and allowed to stay the night.
Belcher returned home between 6:30 and 7 a.m., argued again with Perkins and shot and killed her in front of his mother, Cheryl Shepherd. Police arrived at the house at around 7:50 a.m. following a call from Shepherd, who had recently moved there from West Babylon to help the couple care for Zoey. The baby was heard crying in the background when Belcher’s mother called. Perkins, who was 22, had been shot a total of nine times in the chest, neck and abdomen.
At first, when I heard about the killings, I thought that all of it had gotten to Jovan Belcher: the injuries from hits, the pressure to perform well and to achieve in football. This guy, from initial reports, had been a self-made pro-footballer; he was not part of the vaunted draft or even within the top percentage of players. He was considered too small to be an NFL player. Rather, Belcher was a free agent and was accepted as a first-string player, a workman player, an inside linebacker drawing a couple million a year. This was admirable.
All this does not mean, however, that Belcher was not suffering from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition that may have led to the premature deaths of several other NFL players. It was revealed that Belcher sustained a forceful head injury November 18, and suffered short-term memory loss. Moreover, Julie Mack says, “In fact, Belcher’s degree from University of Maine was in child development and family relations, and he was involved in a program called Male Athletes Against Violence.”
Belcher and Perkins, though, were having problems long before that injury in November. And I think that Kassandra Perkins was his wife in all but name.
Kasandra Perkins, 22, was, technically, a girlfriend. But for all intents and purposes, she was a spouse. Belcher and Perkins referred to one another as husband and wife, and Belcher’s mother called Perkins her daughter. Belcher brought Perkins and her relatives to a Fourth of July block party in West Babylon last year. On Matthews Avenue, the block where Belcher grew up, it was a big deal.
However, the news and commentary that began to spread out about the murder-suicide of Belcher and his girlfriend Kassandra Perkins began to trend dangerously on one side. Or in the case of Bob Costas, who was merely quoting from an article from the Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, people were missing the point that this incident wasn’t just about guns. (Belcher let drop to a friend that he owned at least eight guns at his house, and let me be frank, Belcher shot Perkins nine times. To kill.) Costas was half-right, though, in my humble opinion, but the controversy whipped up from the right-wing Wurlitzer made him a distracting locus of commentary.
Worse, it was sounding to me from the mainstream media and the black press last week that Kassandra Perkins deserved her end, that she was a golddigger who trapped her man by having a baby for him, and that she was harshing the money by putting pressure on Belcher to stay home, to be faithful and to be a dad. Something was wrong with this one-sided coverage. (Apparently his mom didn’t feel that way, and was present to help bring the newborn along with Kassandra, whom she referred to authorities—again—as her daughter.) The Deadspin article by Isaac Rauch that retailed this angle of what happened through a family source via e-mail (who still remains nameless) was so outrageous and upsetting to me that it was a contributing factor to my not beginning this article until now. That particular “interview” made me inwardly call a halt to such bullcrap. (I’ve added corrections only to punctuation below).
We asked if he meant that he thought Perkins had intended to get money from Belcher through child-support payments.
[On the Thursday night after the Nov. 12 Chiefs-Steelers Monday Night Football game] he came home and Kasi had taken the baby (Zoe) to Jamaal Charles’ residence because she is cousins with Jamaal’s wife Whitney. They had been arguing for quite a few weeks prior which was nothing new. The majority of the arguments were due to Kasi failing college classes that Jovan was paying for and quitting her retail job where she worked two 4 hour shifts a week. From my perception, she was lazy, and after learning she was introduced to him through her cousin who is married to Jamaal, I can only assume she was after money. I’m in no way trying to defame her character, however; she is the catalyst to this incident. [...]
rat “tipster” concludes by saying that it was really a lethal combo of drugs, alcohol and concussions that impelled Jovan Belcher to pull the triggers on himself and Kassandra Perkins. This is the same person who, along with another witness, ran inside information to the local Kansas City Star about what they thought about the state of the Perkins-Belcher relationship. This particular individual later dropped knowledge about Perkins going to a Trey Songz concert with her friends. (Apparently, though, after the concert, Perkins and her companions showed up at the Power and Light District where Belcher and Brittni Glass were also present. Whether some or all of these people saw each other there in the vicinity is anyone’s guess, but I would not be surprised.)
This informant’s tales also made me go back to the Chris Henry case of a couple of years back, in which other unnamed sources claimed that his long-time lover Loleini Tonga was just as volatile as her late boyfriend, that she drank heavily, and that her reckless spending on wedding preparations was upsetting Henry and provoking his outbursts. I regret repeating this information, because it turned out that a year after Henry died, researchers found that he too had been suffering deleterious effects from CTE as well. In retrospect, a lot of things are becomng clearer.
Brittni Glass herself later admitted that she was the mystery friend to the New York Post. However, she claimed that she and Belcher were not that serious and that she was not his girl. And that wasn’t all that was mentioned.
Early reports said Belcher flew into a rage after Perkins returned late from a Trey Songz concert at about 1 a.m.
But according to Glass and her neighbors, Belcher wasn’t even home then.
Residents said they had seen Belcher — who had a $1.9 million contract with the Chiefs this year — and his distinctive black Bentley at the building several times in recent months.
Glass said she and Belcher were not in a relationship and declined to say exactly where he slept.
Meanwhile, a new report said Belcher had been violent in a past relationship.
In 2006, while a grid star at the University of Maine, he punched his fist through a window because he was “upset with a girl,’’ said a police report obtained by USA Today.
Less than a year later, campus cops responded to a complaint of disorderly conduct at a dorm after someone “became concerned about the raised voices” of Belcher and a girlfriend outside his room, the paper said.
So Belcher’s participation in Male Athletes Against Violence may have been part of anger management therapy for him while at the University of Maine. Some people do major in and later pursue areas of psychology (“child development and family relations”?) not only to help others, but to help themselves with their own long-standing problems. Unfortunately, if this is so, it appears that it did not help Belcher to understand, to recognize when he was escalating, and to learn strategies of how to back off his anger even up to the day of the murder-suicide. If Belcher had been a thinking guy, and if he did indeed suffer from CTE, these expressions of rage should have been a confirmation to him that something organic that was going on with him, and not necessarily exacerbated by his relationship with Kassandra. Especially since the talk was around that more players—present as well as former—could be or were falling prey to this malady. On the other hand, such signals too might have frightened him into ignoring them, because admitting that he needed help would have meant that he would not be able to play football any more.
What if Kassandra brought the child and herself to safety because she was afraid of Belcher going off and getting physical during their arguments? What if the woman’s pregnancy—her first—wasn’t easy or that taking classes and having a small-time job wasn’t panning out because she wanted to focus on being well and having and being with her daughter? If she was working retail as a sales cashier even for eight hours a week, I can tell you from experience that it is no party to work on your feet, much less pregnant with your hormones jouncing, and you are not able to sit down after an hour or so.
Who the hell is this person to suggest that Kassandra Perkins was actually lazy?
For a while, I just could not find the words until Honorée Fanonne Jeffers on my Facebook feed said it all for me. It’s revised my take on how insidious domestic violence can be.
There’s been a lot of talk about the murder-suicide involving Jovan Belcher’s killing his girlfriend Kassandra Perkins and then killing himself. What concerns and disturbs me is that people are framing this tragedy in terms of a “loving guy” who “just snapped.”
What you need to know–if you don’t remember anything else about this tragedy–is that this type of situation doesn’t involve a nice guy just snapping. I’m a trained battered women’s counselor, although it’s been nearly two decades since I’ve been active.
Murders like this don’t involve just snapping. They involve a long-term, ongoing pattern of physical abuse that escalates over time. And so, please do not be fooled by the smiling pictures you see on the web. Unless this was a very miraculous situation unlike the other extremely similar domestic violence situations that end in tragedy, Jovan Belcher had been belittling, hitting, pushing, punching, threatening, choking, and possibly even raping Kassandra Perkins before he finally took her life.
And their families were ignoring and smoothing it over and “counseling” the young couple that “all couples have problems” and they had been telling Kassandra “don’t leave your child to grow up without a father like so many other Black children.” Over time, ongoing abuse and subsequent reuniting allows the batterer to become desensitized to the repercussions of his behavior and the dangerous scenarios he creates.
Like all physical abusers, he most likely was a narcissist incapable of understanding and unfeeling to the pain inflicted by his behavior. And because he was a sports figure surrounded by adoration and making lots of money, he was able to tell himself his behavior was okay.
I know some folks really want to feel sorry for Jovan Belcher. And that’s completely okay. Human empathy is a wonderful thing. But you can feel sorry for another human being without his being a good person. So stop saying Jovan Belcher was “a good man,” a “good father,” and a “good son.” He was a murderer.
A good man does not murder somebody.
A good father does not murder his child’s mother, leaving that child motherless.
A good son wouldn’t murder someone in front of his own mother and leave her to pick up the pieces.
Most people thought O.J. Simpson was a nice guy too. Sean Penn is a humanitarian, but he is also the guy who reportedly beat and held his then-wife Madonna hostage for nine hours. Nearly a quarter of all women and 11.6 percent of men report experiencing abuse in their lifetimes; if people prone to domestic violence were that easy to spot, victims would do a better job of avoiding them in the first place.
We don’t know if Belcher ever abused Kasandra Perkins before he murdered her, but what we do know is that domestic violence is, by its nature, a crime that largely happens behind closed doors to victims who are highly motivated to deny that they’re being victimized. Thirty percent of women murdered a year are killed by intimate partners. I feel safe in assuming that none of those women thought that their partner was going to kill them when they first were getting to know him. Most abusers can convince their victims after they’ve beat them that they’re not the hitting types, so why wouldn’t they be able to convince outsiders who haven’t seen their private, violent side?
As much as I would like to believe that such terrible acts of violence have a simple explanation, domestic violence is clearly a complex problem that defies easy fixes. By focusing on concussions and entirely hypothetical brain injuries, we run the risk of downplaying the true nature of these crimes—that they are almost always a result of an abusive partner who puts his desire for control over all other concerns—and of misplacing the blame.
Cases of maternal homicide involving minority women are underreported and underpublicized.
According to the CDC, black women have a maternal homicide risk about seven times that of white women. Black women ages 25-29 are about 11 times more likely as white women in that age group to be murdered while pregnant or in the year after childbirth.
Experts say that a fear and mistrust of the police may lead to black women keeping silent about their suffering.
It doesn’t matter that the 22-year-old Perkins didn’t fit this 2009 CDC profile because of her age. It still goes. Particularly, if one is a expantant mother, relative youth and vulnerability is used as a method of control.
Then there are abusers who use pregnancy as a means to control their girlfriends, to keep them in a vulnerable and dependent condition.
A recent, disturbing study of 61 poor teenaged Boston-area girls of various ethnic backgrounds in abusive relationships published in the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics revealed that 26 percent had reported that their partners were actively trying to get them pregnant against their will. The girls reported that their partners manipulated their birth control or told them that they wanted them to become pregnant.
“You think of forced sex as an aspect of abusive relationships, but this takes that abuse a step further to reproductive control of a young woman’s body,” said study co-author and pediatrician Elizabeth Miller, M.D.
While a pregnant woman who is older might have the financial resources or support network to seek help, a younger woman may not.
That’s an absorbing piece of information: that some young men purposely get their girlfriends pregnant in order to control them, and it’s not necessarily the other way around. If this was ever true in the Belcher-Perkins relationship, it would put the kibosh to the idea that Kassandra Perkins ever entrapped Jovan Belcher with her pregnancy in order to just get his money. This is nothing but playa trash talk. Rather, a situation like the one described would free up Belcher to do whatever he wanted, knowing that Kassandra was dependent on him financially and making her shut up about her needs, especially about the next logical step, marriage.
I will ask this ultimate question, though: what was Belcher doing tooling around Kansas City in a flipping Bentley when he only had a one-year contract for $1.9 million? This dude wasn’t really making a lot of ducats compared to other players who had much longer contracts and definitely millions more. He was living too large. And remember, a regular NFL player’s longevity in the game is limited—less than five years. If injuries mount, he has even less time on the field and then he’s out for good. Staying healthy could be icing on the cake.
The Kansas City Chiefs has one of the worst records in the NFL this season. Their second win came when they took the field hours after the murder-suicide in a controversial move that people are still talking about. From Jovan Belcher’s Wikipedia entry:
A service for Belcher was held on December 5 at Landmark International Deliverance and Worship Center just southwest of Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs’ practice was scheduled around the event. Pioli and one of Belcher’s uncles spoke at the closed service. A funeral for Perkins took place the following day at the Ridgeview Family Fellowship in Blue Ridge, Texas. Another service was planned for December 8 in Austin, Texas; Perkins is to be buried in Pflugerville, Texas. Clark Hunt attended the service. Perkins was born in McKinney, Texas, attended elementary and middle school in the Dallas suburb of Garland and graduated from Anderson High School in Austin in 2009.
Little Zoe has lost both parents, so she is now in the temporary custody of her grandmother, Cheryl Shepherd, who lives in Belcher’s hometown of West Babylon, Long Island, New York. The infant is now an heiress.
The orphaned daughter of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins will receive at least $1 million from the NFL as she grows up.
Under the terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Zoey, who will be three months old on Dec. 11, will receive $9,000 per month for the next 48 months, and at least $4,000 per month from age 4 until she turns 18 – or 23 if she goes to college.
Zoey is eligible for the money under the league’s Surviving Child benefit.
A rich baby girl.
But oh, at what a price.
- KC police release video of Belcher encounter a few hours before shooting (kansascity.com)
- 911 Call: Jovan Belcher’s Mother Begs Victim To ‘Stay With Me’ (atlantablackstar.com)
- Chiefs Had Given Counseling To Belcher, Girlfriend (cleveland.cbslocal.com)
- Did Jovan Belcher get special treatment? (kshb.com)
- Report: ‘At Least Seven’ Players Turn In Guns In Wake Of Jovan Belcher Tragedy (newyork.cbslocal.com)