Roger Goodell has an absolutely huge decision on his hands, and I’m fearing he is about to make the wrong call.
Reportedly at this hour the Carolina Panthers are going ahead with flying to Kansas City for a scheduled game tomorrow…just hours after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide in front of coach Romeo Crennel and other team officials, after he reportedly murdered his girlfriend earlier in the morning.
This is the wrong decision.
Tomorrow’s Chiefs-Panthers game absolutely should not be played as scheduled.
(It should be added that at the point of this writing, it is also the desire of the Kansas City Chiefs organization in regards to planning on going ahead with playing a game at its scheduled time.)
I won’t get into any details on the passing of Belcher or his girlfriend, with the circumstances and possible motives leading to the tragedy no doubt being handled by mainstream news outlets as warranted.
Also, I believe it would be inappropriate to get into the topic of crime and the NFL at this time. Yes, this is often a hot-button topic. But consider the following: 53 active players on each team plus players on practice squads/injured reserve, probably equals roughly 70. Multiply 70 times 32 and one realizes that there are currently well over 2,000+ players participating in the show, plus coaching staffs and other personnel. And in any community with over 2,000+ active employees plus families, unfortunate and even tragic events do happen.
You may in your lifetime have had to endure a tragedy involving your school or workplace. In most instances work and business do go on. Unfortunately, the calendar does not stop, even in cases where grieving is of necessity.
But the National Football League is a show, where its scheduled 16 games this weekend will be witnessed in person by approximately a million paying customers, plus many millions more watching on television.
To be honest, I think it will be hard enough watching the other 14 games tomorrow and Monday.
There have been other precedents regarding having to reschedule NFL games in recent years, mostly due to weather-related events. Those have been handled on a case-by-case basis, whether it involves playing the game one or two days later and/or at another venue.
Just five years ago this time, the Washington Redskins somehow had to go on with the business of playing a game following the passing of star player Sean Taylor. At least that event occurred earlier in the week, and the team was at least able to begin to get around to the business of playing the game.
This, however, is too fresh, having occurred in front of team officials, and of this writing the Arrowhead Stadium complex remains on lockdown as law enforcement continues to investigate.
Also consider the trivial fact that the Chiefs (1-10) are not in playoff contention and the Panthers (3-8) nearly likewise. If I were to take the records of another random game on the schedule, say 7-4 Giants v. 5-6 Redskins – if hypothetically that were the records of Carolina and Kansas City, then perhaps look at a contingency of playing on Tuesday night, or even postponing the entire league schedule a week.
If Carolina somehow were to get to 7-8 and remain mathematically in playoff contention, well then cross that bridge at that point. To be honest wins and losses don’t mean much right now – and draft positioning would also not be nearly reason enough to play.
Former commissioners Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue had to each weigh the options of letting the NFL show go on in light of large-scale tragedies during their time in charge.
Rozelle spent the rest of his career regretting allowing the league to play as scheduled 48 hours following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. CBS rightfully did not bother to televise any games that day.
Learning in part from this, Tagliabue postponed the scheduled second week of the 2001 NFL season in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It created a logistical mess, and the league even had to find a way to reschedule the Super Bowl one week later that season, but the call was never second-guessed.
This situation involves one game and not the entire schedule. The two franchises involved will take a financial hit, but it is necessary. And yes, the players of the two teams should be paid this week.
Just take one look at social media this hour, and the overwhelming opinion is that this game should not go on.
Hopefully Roger Goodell, the Kansas City Chiefs, and Carolina Panthers are taking note.