Lots of theories have already been passed around in the media today to make meaning of this murder-suicide: he had a concussion, maybe he was on steroids, he snapped, we're waiting for the toxicology report, the stress of a career and having a newborn, and now, relationships in the NFL are "hard." Yet, none of these explanations seek to understand the likely explanation of what we know about patterns of domestic violence. What if we ask the unspeakable and ponder if it really was about power and control? What does that challenge in us as sports fans, as community members, as a society, that we don't even want to consider the possibility? As this story unfolds, we will likely learn more about their relationship leading up to this murder-suicide (BTW, a plausible outcome to an escalating abusive relationship: One report found that in 29% of domestic violence homicides, the abuser then committed suicide).
While, I found Dr. Terrill's report lacking (as well as most coverage thus far of this tragedy) the initial comments in response to the article were surprisingly heartening, containing many statements of abuser accountability and rejecting her thesis:
"There shouldn't have been a Chiefs game on Saturday. That poor young woman was just murdered in cold blood. Did noone [sic] take that into account in the Cheif's camp? Headlines all day were "Belcher commits suicide" - and in an afterthought, "after killing his girlfriend. I hope you're not raising your children to put sports above goodness, morals, integrity, honor and humanity." Rogie The Geech; Seattle
"Last I checked super heros [sic] don't murder their girlfriends and orphan their children." psychonurse68; Seattle
"The guy was a murderer. You don't see that in headlines. He was a cold blooded murdered." Florence Skaponi; Seattle, Washington
I do wonder if the dismissal of her argument has more to do with the classist tone of the article than the insight into the dynamics of domestic violence:
"Well cry me a multi-million dollar river! Why doesn't this author spend her time telling us why an abnormal percentage of NFL players past and present have criminal records? or histories of substance abuse? or spousal abuse? or socialization problems?" adeuxian1; Elisabethville, WA
"I have to be careful not to pass judgement, however to me, this is a cop out. Many people, myself included have high pressure jobs, travel even more than NFL players, away from our family... All the above. But most of us are not killing our spouses and orphaning children. As sad as the story is, hard to justify what happened. We all face challenges in life. Man up to it" FootLongDawg; Sammamish
Overall, the mainstream media has been quick to obscure the limelight cast on domestic violence and instead continue to report that Belcher was a "great guy", they fixated on whether the team would play a game the next day and if they would win, and offered ill-informed theories about how this might have happened. The media as a whole could take some pointers from this well written article by Jemele Hill situating the fatalities within the context of the larger societal epidemic of intimate partner violence. It's refreshing to read a story by someone who clearly did research before reporting on an event, rather than interviewing shocked and grieving by-standards.