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Thoughts on Steve McNair’s Death

The murder of Steve McNair brought an unwelcome spotlight to Nashville in recent days. Media outlets around the country came to town to report on the latest developments and to cover the memorial service held on July 9.

Due to his many charitable works, reputation as one of the toughest players in the National Football League, and image as an upstanding, down to earth man, most people were shocked to discover he had been killed by a mistress, Sahel Kazemi, with whom he had been having a very public affair.

Deaths are always a sad event, and seemingly more painful when they reveal aspects of the victim’s life that we were not aware of. This may be especially true when it involves celebrities that we assume we know, since the public tends to make a great personal investment in these stars. McNair was a classic example of someone whose public persona masked some unsavory dark secrets.

As I reflect on the circumstances of his death, I cannot shake the feeling that it could have been prevented had people in his life intervened. Influential people often receive preferential treatment that allows them to do whatever they want with minimal consequences. We have seen this repeatedly with celebrities, politicians, and business executives. In McNair’s case, I believe this contributed to a sense of being untouchable and making choices that ultimately led him to his grave.

Let’s start with his relationships. We all knew that he presented himself as a married family man, but within a few days of his death, it seemed clear that many people were aware of his habit of juggling multiple intimate partners and the “love shack” on Second Avenue where he was killed.

This is a sensitive area, because many of us have probably been in situations where we knew that someone close to us (a friend, relative, work colleague, etc.) was cheating on their partner. What is our responsibility once we have that information? Many people adopt their own version of “don’t ask don’t tell” and sit back to let the chips fall where they may.

It is one thing to choose not to inform the person being cheated on about their partner’s infidelity, but how about discussing it with the person doing the cheating? Are we giving tacit approval to the affair by not addressing it? If we say to ourselves, “that’s on them,” are we really concerned about them, and is that how we should treat people we care about? Do we keep quiet because we don’t want to change the dynamics of our relationship with the cheater? That seemed to be the case with the friend who shared the Second Avenue condo with McNair, as well as reporters who were aware of his affairs but ignored them in order to maintain access to him. I wonder if they were really as surprised at the circumstances of the shooting as they claimed to be.

We can apply these questions to other aspects of McNair’s life. Did he have a substance abuse problem? I have heard that bars allowed him to drink for free, and he took advantage of that VIP treatment on a regular basis. Most people remember his DUI arrest in 2003, where he was also charged with illegal gun possession (all charges were dismissed, in another possible example of preferential treatment). But he had another DUI case in 2007, and was with Kazemi when she was pulled over for DUI by the same officer from 2003 less than 48 hours before the murder. In the latter two cases, McNair was not driving, but why would you allow someone under the influence to drive you home unless you were also too impaired to drive? He drove to the condo after she was already there, and was shot in his sleep. I wonder if he went there because was too intoxicated to make it to his other home? The toxicology reports will provide some insight into that.

There are other mysteries surrounding his death that I suppose will never be answered. Why did the person who found the bodies wait nearly 45 minutes before calling the police? Was he “cleaning up” things he did not want the authorities to find?

With all the disturbing questions raised by Steve McNair’s murder, I do believe that it has made people re-evaluate their own lives. Through a friend, I was told that someone has decided to check himself into a treatment center because he saw too many parallels between his life and McNair’s. If even one person manages to make a positive change as a result of the McNair tragedy, it will mean he did not die in vain. In a twisted way, it would be another way he helped others.

From “Blackout” for 7/13/09 by Anthony Rucker


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