Police in Atlanta are looking for two men who gunned down former boxing champion Vernon Forrest. At least two men shot Forrest up to eight times as he was putting air in his tires at a gas station last night. Police think the gunmen wanted to steal Forrest's Jaguar.
Forrest is now the third high-profile athlete to be murdered this month. Four, if you include former boxer Alexis Arguello, but police in Nicaragua think his death on July 1st was a suicide. But on July 4th, former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was shot and killed in a condo in Nashville by his girlfriend, who then took her own life. And on July 11, the popular boxer Arturo Gatti was strangled in a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro. His wife is being held as the prime suspect in that case.
Now, athletes having run-ins with the law is nothing new. Kobe Bryant, Plaxico Burress, Michael Vick, and a host of others can attest to that. And every now and then an athlete dies in his prime. Sometimes it is an accident. Sometimes natural causes. But this is the first time so many of them were murdered so close to one another. Which has to raise the question -- what is going on here?
Let's look at the McNair case. McNair was having an affair with a 20-year-old woman named Sahel Kazemi. There are reports Kazemi had financial problems, and that she thought McNair was having another extra-marital affair, other than the one he was having with her. No one will ever know why Kazemi shot McNair and then turned the gun on herself, but one could speculate she was afraid of losing McNair to the other women, or perhaps even to his wife.
Gatti's case is similar to McNair's in that police say it appears Gatti's wife was the perpetrator. Although police are now backing off?their early statements that Gatti's wife, Amanda Rodrigues, was "unquestionably responsible" for his death by strangling him with her purse strap. Rodrigues has yet to be charged, and has maintained her innocence. But friends say the couple had a tumultuous marriage, puncuated by fights -- the yelling kind and the physical -- and extreme jealousy of each other. Acelino "Popo" Freitas, a close friend of Gatti and his wife, said that he "knew they were having some sort of problem and were about to separate." If indeed Rodrigues is guilty, perhaps the fear of losing him -- the same as in McNair's murder -- could be the motive.
Forrest's murder is more clear cut. He didn't know his attackers. Someone wanted Forrest's expensive car, and would kill to get it. So it's a simple case of greed. But perhaps money is at the root of all three murders.
Let's face it, today's athletes are rich young men. They also live in the spotlight, a luxury that has no price. Other people crave their money, want to share their spotlight. And when that is threatened to be taken away, they fight back. So the same way Forrest's gunmen killed him to take what his money paid for, maybe Kazemi and Rodrigues (and we point out Rodrigues has not yet been charged) murdered their men to stop the money from being taken away.
The old saying "money is the root of all evil" may or may not be true. And it may or may not be true in these murder cases. But it's worth giving it some thought, at least.