Kenny McKinley, a second-year Denver Broncos receiver who was on injured reserve for the season, died of an apparent suicide on Monday afternoon. It’s a tragic story, both for the friends and family of the deceased and the Broncos, who suffer another devastating death.
“Kenny had a promising future on the football field, but more importantly, he was a great teammate whose smile and personality could light up the room,” coach Josh McDaniels said in a statement Monday night. “This is a tragic loss for our football team, and his family is in all of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
The media is covering the story, but they are missing the bigger picture.
Concussions are a growing problem for NFL players. They can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – a disease linked to sudden bouts of depression. C.T.E. may have played a role in the suicide of a few NFL players as well as University of Pennsylvania lineman Owen Thomas’.
Judging by the words of McKinley’s agent, Andrew Bondarowicz, his charge didn’t sound like the type to take his own life.
“Kenny, he had a big heart, a love for life. It’s just very shocking,” Bondarowicz told the Denver Post. “I’m really at a loss for words.”
Now, there are plenty of reasons completely unrelated to C.T.E. and concussions that could have led to McKinley’s depression. He was out for the year, which couldn’t have been easy. His career wasn’t blossoming. The list of potential causes is virtually endless. But to not even mention the possibility that concussions played a role (Don Banks in his SI.com column) or to only discuss head injuries in passing while penning a story griping about the machismo of the NFL like Jon Wertheim seems irresponsible. This is an issue, and it’s not going away.