The Kareem Hunt incident shows that when it comes to domestic violence, the NFL still doesn’t get it.
Sure, Hunt was placed on the Commissioner Exempt list Friday afternoon after TMZ released a video of the Chiefs star running back shoving and kicking a 19-year-old woman in a Cleveland hotel. On Friday night, the Chiefs announced that they were parting ways with Hunt as a result of the incident.
But here’s the problem: the assault took place back in February, more than nine months ago. It was widely reported at the time. The NFL knew about it and so did the Chiefs.
Keep in mind, each NFL team has its own employees who are hired to investigate incidents like this and to do background checks on potential draft picks and players. Many of these investigators are former law enforcement officers who are paid to get to the bottom of these types of incidents. But for whatever reason, the league and the team failed to address this issue adequately when they first learned about it.
League policy states that even if a player is never convicted of a crime or even charged with a crime, the NFL can conduct its own investigation and suspend a player for “conduct detrimental to the game.”
For example, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended by the league despite never being convicted of any crime. But the league’s investigation found the evidence against Elliott was credible and he was suspended.
In the Hunt case, the league and the Chiefs failed to take adequate action until the TMZ video was released. Only when the situation became a public relations nightmare for the NFL did the commissioner’s office decide to address Hunt’s decision to physically attack a woman.
Hunt is a very talented football player. He is presently fifth in the entire league with 824 rushing yards and has another 378 receiving yards. He’s third in the league with 14 touchdowns and was a shoo-in to make the Pro Bowl. Hunt is a catalyst for one of the league’s best offenses in Kansas City. He is a star.
But if Hunt was a fringe player instead of a star, he almost certainly would have been released back in February. But the league and the Chiefs swept the incident under the rug until the video became public and forced the league to act.
The NFL needs to demonstrate that it is serious about the issue of domestic because it is the right thing to do, not because people may get offended seeing a player who attacked a woman making on the field making millions of dollars. The league needs to understand the seriousness of domestic violence and that the victims of such incidents can be anybody’s mother, sister, wife, friend or daughter. If TMZ obtained the video, the league could have done the same thing and taken a proactive stance on the issue of domestic violence.
After the league flubbed the Ray Rice suspension back in 2014, the hope was they would handle future incidents in a more proactive way. Unfortunately, the Hunt incident demonstrates the NFL hasn’t learned its lesson.