The NFL fumbles on domestic violence

Helena Lara, Photo Editor

On Nov. 30, 2018, Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was released  after the publication of a TMZ video showing him kicking and beating a young woman in a luxury hotel. Just three months later, in mid February he was recruited and signed by the Cleveland Browns.

Although the incident occured in February of 2018, the video was released to the public nine months later and only then caused public outrage and forced the Chiefs to take a stand. As a result of public pressure, they released Kareem Hunt. Although this was only nine months after the actual incident occurred, and only after a video was released. The Chiefs claim they did know about the video and that Hunt had told them false information regarding the incident; the inaccurate information that was provided is unclear to the public.

Not only did the NFL not act in regards to the incident file from February until the release of the video, they also did not prompt an investigation after knowledge of the incident surfaced. The only thing that seems to have spurred Hunt’s discharge was the release of the information to the public. This leak created fan outrage and made his participation on the team no longer worthwhile.

The accusations against Hunt are just another example of the innumerable accounts of sexual and domestic abuse that have been tolerated within the league and gone without proper repercussions for the players. Charged players are not treated as abusers, but instead are portrayed as troubled youths and good teammates.

“The team’s made up of a bunch of young men,” Clark Hunt, the Chiefs CEO said in August when addressing Kareem’s situation as well as the team adding, “they’re not always going to make the best decisions.”

The discourse portrayed by the NFL is one of victimizing the players as if they did not know better and easily allowing them a pass. They do this as if the players aren’t criminals for the crimes they have committed, but instead troubled youths that deserve a second chance.

John Dorsey, manager of the Chiefs, also has a history of acquiring players with troublesome pasts onto the team. The list includes Tyreek Hill, who was dismissed from Oklahoma State’s football and track team after he punched and choked his pregnant girlfriend. He was later picked up by Dorsey and the Chiefs. Dorsey received backlash from fans, but Hill presents himself as an important addition, as the team’s number one receiver. These abuser-draftings show what is more worthwhile to the team, strategically and economically. Spectator backlash falls to the wayside as teams time after time make loose judgement calls. The owners and coaches run the teams like a business, and so often they ethically and politically correct choice is not heeded.

These judgement calls made by NFL managers are not based on whether players are criminals charged with abuse, but instead on whether their discharge or continuation on the team is worthwhile for the success of the team. Hunt was released by the Chiefs because his incident became public, as well as in both Hunt’s and Hill’s drafting’s post charges the questions asked were based on spectator involvement and strategic player placements. This shows that the NFL is lenient towards players only when they want to and only when it is beneficial to them. But it is completely unjustified to change the rules based on the needs of NFL teams, specifically when the rules are related to crimes, especially domestic abuse crimes that are already so often overlooked in society and in the legal system.

The neglect shown by the NFL to recognize and punish the brutal world of abuse caused by these players contributes to a society that normalizes domestic abuse. Many times labeled as “normal” husband and wife issues, this rape culture accepts and passively condones abuse, both sexual and domestic. And when the NFL drafts a player like Hunt onto a professional team like the Cleveland Browns, they are discreetly condoning this abuse and ignoring the lifetime’s worth of mental and physical consequences endured by victims as well as the fact that their actions are crimes. If these men were convicted of domestic abuse charges, legally they could have been imprisoned in both the states of Missouri and Ohio. This of course leads to a glaringly obvious question that has to start being discussed: if our state laws would condemn these men, why doesn’t the NFL?