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Kansas City Chiefs starting linebacker Willie Earl Gay Jr. found himself behind bars this week, accused of destroying property during a domestic altercation with the mother of his 3-month-old son. And I can’t help but think of the tragic case of former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who murdered his live-in girlfriend before taking his own life. Gay, who has talked in the past about his long-standing mental health problems, should give full attention to getting help now.
Gay was arrested after the incident involving his ex-partner inside an Overland Park apartment, police said. He is out of jail and will presumably be back on the playing field Sunday against Buffalo. But given his recent behavior, he should be sidelined until he gets the additional help he needs from the Chiefs and the NFL.
The organization is aware of the incident but won’t say if Gay will be on the active roster for Sunday’s game. Withholding Gay from competition could hurt the team’s chances of advancing in the playoffs. But there are more important things than winning football games. Addressing Gay’s mental health is one.
He was charged with criminal destruction of property less than $1,000, a domestic violence-related misdemeanor that could have lasting consequences for the 23-year-old second-year player from Mississippi State. He has pleaded not guilty. Gay will most likely find himself in a diversion program. No weapon was used during the argument, nor was there a presence of alcohol or drugs, according to an Overland Park police report. That’s a relief.
In October, Gay opened up about his struggles with the mental health issues that have plagued him since high school and college. He was suspended for nine games in college for academic fraud and reportedly injured the team’s quarterback during a fight.
“I love you all just know my mental health is F’d up,” Gay wrote then in a Twitter post. Late Wednesday, he was thrown in a Johnson County jail cell for damaging a vacuum and other household items during the disturbance with his ex.
Without intervention, the cycle of violence can worsen over time. The incident cannot be downplayed, as Gay’s representatives have tried to do. Remember Belcher? He was a 25-year-old linebacker with the Chiefs in 2012 when he shot and killed Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his infant child. Belcher turned the gun on himself a short time later in a parking lot at the team’s training facility next to Arrowhead Stadium. An argument between Belcher and Perkins preceded the murder-suicide.
Gay entered a not guilty plea to misdemeanor criminal property damage before Johnson County Judge James Phelan on Thursday. He is prohibited from contacting his ex or their child, according to court records.
Gay was a first-round talent that the Chiefs gambled on in the second round of the 2020 draft. I hope the organization will bench the talented ballplayer and get him the help he desperately needs.