NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Steve McNair’s pastor and close friend cautioned against judging the ex-NFL quarterback Thursday, reminding people who gathered for his memorial not to cast the first stone when talking about his life off the field.
McNair, who was married, was shot to death at his condo early Saturday by his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then turned the gun on herself.
“Drop your stone the next time you write about Steve McNair. Drop your stone the next time you text somebody. Drop your stone the next time you twitter. Drop your stone, those of you in the barbershops, the beauty shops. Those of you walking the streets on the corner, drop your stone,” Bishop Joseph W. Walker III told thousands of people, among them family members, fans and more than 50 former teammates, gathered at Mount Zion Baptist Church.
“What I do know about this man was that he loved God though he was just like us: imperfect,” Walked said. “But he knew God.”
Among those in the audience was McNair’s wife, Mechelle, who later left wearing sunglasses. Walker called her an amazing woman.
“You have inspired us all to endure hardship as a good soldier,” he said.
It was her first public appearance since her husband died, and press photographers were asked not to take pictures of her or other family members.
Fans had lined up starting Thursday morning to view McNair’s closed silvery-gray casket at a funeral home and later outside the church. A helicopter provided live TV footage as McNair’s body was moved by hearse, and three of four local TV stations showed the memorial service live.
McNair’s casket was on display at Mount Zion Baptist Church, where he had attended services since moving to Nashville in 1997. It was flanked by a large photo of him posing with his 2003 NFL MVP award on the right and another of him holding a football on the left.
The program included a statement from the McNair family.
“Today in our loss, our hurt, and our pain we recognize our gains in you our friends and loved ones ... They have all been a source of strength and comfort at this time to our family,” it read.
Titans owner Bud Adams, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean all attended.
Among those speaking was Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who recalled a hit McNair took to his chest in September 2000 that had the NFL quarterback ready to quit the game. He was in so much pain that he spent a bye weekend with the team’s former chaplain in Houston.
Then McNair, who struggled to breathe, watched his backup knocked out of the Titans’ next game. Fisher said McNair looked at him, winked, tossed two passes and then drove them down the field to a game-winning touchdown. Fisher said he caught up to McNair walking off the field that day in Pittsburgh and started to talk when the quarterback interrupted and pointed to the sky.
“No more turf toe, no more sacks. No more shoulder problems, and no more interceptions, only touchdown passes. I’m going to miss you No. 9,” Fisher said.
Eddie George, who helped McNair take the Titans to their lone Super Bowl in 2000, was among the pallbearers, along with four of the quarterback’s former offensive linemen who escorted his casket out as the service ended. George read a poem describing McNair as a warrior during the service.
Kazemi's DUI arrest
July 9: Steve McNair's girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, was stopped for driving under the influence.
Steve McNair (1973-2009)
Gone, not forgotten
Take a look at notable sports deaths of 2009.