Kenny McKinley: Denver Broncos receiver's apparent suicide puts football in perspective

The subject line of the release sent out by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office a little after 8 p.m. last night reads: "Apparent Suicide Investigation."

The name on the form: Kendrick LeJeff McKinley. No mention that the victim, known as Kenny McKinley, was a member of the Denver Broncos.

The ACSO's note was unusual, since most local law-enforcement agencies seldom publicize suicides. Witness one near the intersection of 33rd and Wolff earlier this month that the Denver Police Department only confirmed after a call from Westword in response to a tip prompted by worried neighbors, who'd seen a visiting coroner and crime-scene tape. But McKinley's notoriety made keeping his death quiet an impossibility.

McKinley was drafted in the fifth round last year and mostly played on special teams during the season.

Due to a knee injury last month, McKinley was placed on injured reserve. But there's no reason to assume this situation led him to take his life. To put it mildly, the general public doesn't have nearly enough information about this young player to draw any conclusions -- and even if we did, determining a definitive cause for such a decision is often impossible even for bereaved family members who knew the victim well.

In the meantime, McKinley's death serves as a reminder that professional football players aren't simply pawns in a fantasy football game, meant to be used or discarded depending upon their performance on the field. They're human beings struggling to get through each day just like the rest of us. Sure, their struggles are different, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily easier -- a fact McKinley's loved ones are no doubt grappling with even now.

In the meantime, Twitter nation is mourning McKinley's loss. As noted by London's Independent newspaper, the subject reached sixth place on the most-discussed-topics list, with even Donovan McNabb weighing in. Page down to see his tweet, as well as the ACSO document announcing McKinley's suicide.

I Just spoke to my former teammate Brian Dawkins who informed me of tragic news that Broncos WR Kenny McKinley was found dead, very sad newsless than a minute ago via web

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts