KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What was expected to be a routine road trip for the Carolina Panthers instead took a disturbing turn Saturday morning when news of the murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher broke shortly before the Panthers departed from Charlotte.
The Panthers were aware of the situation in Kansas City before they left Charlotte on their 1:15 p.m. charter flight. Interim general manager Brandon Beane said the Panthers were open to whatever decision the Chiefs made regarding a possible postponement.
“We took the stance that whatever made the most sense to the Chiefs, we would support,” Beane said. “If that was delaying the game, postponing the game, whatever, we were going to support whatever they thought was best.”
Beane said he had regular communication with league officials until the time of the Panthers’ departure.
“We took the back seat and let them sort through everything. We just planned accordingly,” Beane said. “I stayed in touch with the league probably once an hour from the time we knew about it until we left at 1:15. The league did a great job of advising us to what was going on and we should plan to go. They thought this game would go on as scheduled.”
Approximately the time the Panthers arrived in Kansas City, the decision had been made to play the game as scheduled at noon CST Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium near where Belcher killed himself Saturday morning. The NFL released a statement at mid-afternoon saying the game would go on as scheduled.
“The Carolina Panthers are very saddened by the tragic events that have transpired today and send their thoughts and prayers to the entire Kansas City Chiefs organization and to the family of the victim at this most difficult time,” the team said in a statement.
Upon arrival in Kansas City, the Panthers’ team buses got a police escort to their hotel. Security was on site as the team made the walk into their hotel where fans and reporters had gathered.
Coach Ron Rivera did not add comment to the statement Saturday after the team arrived at its hotel. The players were not available for comment.
Panthers defensive tackle Ron Edwards played five seasons with the Chiefs before signing with the Panthers before the 2011 season. Edwards was placed on injured reserve last week after dislocating his elbow and did not make the trip to Kansas City.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day nationwide by calling 1-800-273-8255.