The Kansas City Chiefs took an important first step in an impossible situation Sunday by holding a moment of silence at a game the day after the murder-suicide committed by linebacker Jovan Belcher. The silence at Arrowhead Stadium wasn’t to memorialize Belcher, but to remember all victims of domestic violence. On Saturday, Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, then shot himself at the Chiefs practice facility in the presence of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli. The incident was a stark illustration of the toll of domestic violence; Belcher’s act also orphaned the 3-month-old daughter he had with Perkins.
The Chiefs’ — and the NFL’s — recognition of the problem shouldn’t end with Sunday’s moment of silence.
The next step should be a domestic violence public service campaign by the National Football League. There is an obvious precedent; the league’s October breast cancer awareness campaign, marked by its pink apparel for players, coaches, and fans, focused attention on a disease with which one-eighth of women will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetimes. Yet 1 in 3 women will experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, according to federal data. The NFL could be a potent messenger on their behalf.
The league could also make it dramatically clear to players that domestic abuse will cost them much more on the field. The Dallas Morning News reported this year that Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued 10 one-game suspensions for players in connection with domestic violence since 2006. Perhaps the four-game suspensions currently meted out for performance-enhancing drugs would be a more serious wake-up call. The Chiefs’ moment of silence should result in a loud cry for awareness from the NFL itself.