WHO KILLED JFK? Thirty-two years after the assassination, the
question is still being debated.
Derrick Thomas, the Kansas City Chiefs' six-time Pro Bowl
linebacker, is an avowed Kennedy assassination conspiracy
theorist. Books, CD-ROMs and videos on the subject clutter his
Independence, Mo., home. But that is only the beginning. Thomas
has become friends with Jean Hill, the woman who claims she saw
smoke coming from a rifle shot beyond the grassy knoll at Dealey
Plaza in downtown Dallas. Last year he made a point of
introducing himself to Marina Oswald, the widow of accused JFK
assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, when she visited the Kansas City
area to speak at an assassination symposium. And on Nov. 22, the
anniversary of Kennedy's murder and the eve of the Chiefs'
Thanksgiving Day game with the Dallas Cowboys, Thomas planned to
roam Dealey Plaza for the third time in four years.
"That day is one of the most significant in all of history,"
says Thomas of the fateful Friday in 1963. In Thomas's opinion
it is also one of the most significant in his life, even though
he wasn't born until New Year's Day, 1967. "My true interest
spans from the connection between the assassination and the
Vietnam War," says Thomas. "Had Kennedy lived, probably the war
would have ceased and probably my dad would've still existed."
Air Force captain Robert Thomas was shot down over Vietnam on
Dec. 17, 1972, while piloting his B-52 aircraft on a mission
designated Operation: Linebacker Two. He parachuted from the
plane just before it exploded, but his body was never recovered.
The Pentagon officially declared him dead in 1980.
Derrick supports the theory that Kennedy was killed because he
planned to initiate the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. "Dig
a little deeper," says Thomas. "Look at all the big businesses
that were involved in Vietnam. I think it was a combination of
government and big business.
"Everybody wants to pin the assassination on the Mafia. They
couldn't have carried it out alone. And Lee Harvey Oswald, I
don't even think that he fired the shot."
Thomas, who majored in criminal justice at Alabama, understands
that he cannot prove this. "I don't think this crime is
solvable," he says. "Too much evidence was destroyed or is
Asked to talk at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington,
D.C., during a Memorial Day ceremony in 1993, Thomas delivered a
moving speech, urging Vietnam vets to become more active with
children in their communities. Thomas said that his father has
been a source of strength to him, and that had people not helped
keep his father's memory alive, he wouldn't be where he is
today. Thomas himself has made such a commitment. His inner-city
reading program, Third and Long, has been so successful that
then- President George Bush designated Thomas the nation's 832nd
point of light in 1992. He is the only NFL player so honored.
In his speech Thomas also made a veiled reference to those
events he believes indirectly resulted in the death of his
father. "There are a lot of Americans that benefited greatly
from Vietnam," he said as he stood that day before President
Clinton and General Colin Powell, then Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff. "I am not one of them."
COLOR PHOTO: ELI REICHMAN When he isn't chasing down opposing quarterbacks, the Chief linebacker studies JFK assassination theories. [Derrick Thomas]