Amid the shocking news that Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself on Saturday morning, the NFL is telling the Panthers to go ahead with their plans to travel to Kansas City on Saturday afternoon for Sunday’s 1 p.m. Eastern kickoff against the Chiefs.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the NFL won’t still decide to postpone the game, but it does indicate that the NFL is leaving open the option of having the Chiefs on the field just a day after they learned of the shocking death of a teammate.
Panthers interim G.M. Brandon Beane told the Charlotte Observer that the NFL has advised the team to travel as planned, and the team’s charter plane is scheduled to leave from Charlotte to Kansas City at 1:15 p.m on Saturday.
The NFL is in uncharted territory in this situation, as an active player dying just a day before his team was scheduled to play is unprecedented. The closest thing to a comparable situation happened five years ago in Washington, when Redskins safety Sean Taylor was murdered. But Taylor died on a Tuesday morning before the Redskins played on Sunday. On June 22, 2002, Major League Baseball postponed a Cardinals-Cubs game when Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room just hours before game time.
The league could decide to move the Chiefs game to Monday night or Tuesday night in order to give the Chiefs some time to grieve and collect themselves before playing. But at the moment the indications are that the game will go on as scheduled.