The mother of Jovan Belcher, former linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, is suing the team for causing him to kill both his girlfriend and himself. The lawsuit being brought by Cheryl Shepherd claims that Belcher had brain damage related to concussions, which contributed to his killing his girlfriend and them himself in 2012.
The suit, filed in Jackson County, MO, on Tuesday against the Kansas City Chiefs, claims that while playing four years for the Chiefs, Jovan Belcher suffered from brain damage which ultimately led to “irresistible” and “insane” behaviors. The lawsuit also charges that the coaches and officials of the Chiefs mentally abused Belcher with name-calling and threats, forcing him to play when he was injured and that twice the team did not prevent him from playing with concussions. There are no mentions of head injuries or concussions in Belcher’s records.
The mother of Jovan Belcher alleges in her lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs that he was knocked unconscious in 2009 while playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the team delayed evaluating his injury and did not allow him ample time for recovery, and that the multiple, untreated concussions he suffered caused him to become a killer. Also alleged is that Belcher was permitted to play despite suffering a concussion in a game on Nov. 18, 2012. Family and friends claim to have noticed that after that game in particular, Belcher exhibited signs of “memory loss, confusion, depression, mood swings and explosivity.” In addition, the family claims that because the Chiefs mandated that Belcher seek counseling in the fall of 2012, they then became partly responsible for making sure that Belcher received adequate health care.
On Dec. 1, 2012, Belcher, 25, shot his girlfriend nine times at their home, drove to Kansas City and then killed himself in the Arrowhead stadium parking lot in front of team employees trying to prevent him from doing so.
At the request of his family, the body of Jovan Belcher was exhumed from the North Babylon Cemetery in Bay Shore, N.Y. less than three weeks ago in order to examine his brain for any signs that he had suffered from degeneration caused by concussions. Results of the tests are pending.
In addition to his four years with the Chiefs, Belcher played for the University of Maine during his college career. In 2008, he was named the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year. An undrafted free agent, he signed with the Chiefs in 2009.
Shepherd’s lawsuit comes on the heels of a $765 million tentative legal settlement between the NFL and former players who suffer from a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative cognitive disease. CTE has been found in the brains of several athletes who have committed suicide in recent years. Strong evidence has been gathered which indicates that professional football players who suffer multiple concussions during their careers are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with mental disorders.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, is believed to be the precursor to another lawsuit to be filed by the legal guardian of Belcher’s 1-year-old daughter. A Belcher family attorney believes that the two lawsuits will ultimately be merged. According to a Kansas City Chiefs spokeswoman, the team is not planning to issue a statement regarding the lawsuit filed by Jovan Belcher’s mother, who is suing the team for allegedly causing him to kill his girlfriend and himself.
By Jennifer Pfalz