We normally make it a policy in this space to hold off on making immediate judgments on draft picks, but here is an exception:
The Chiefs drafted Tyreek Hill, a man dismissed fewer than two years ago by Oklahoma State after pleading guilty to choking his pregnant girlfriend.
The Chiefs did this despite years of telling the world how much they value character, and by pointing to respected men like Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, Alex Smith and Jeremy Maclin as examples of what they are about.
The Chiefs — chairman Clark Hunt, general manager John Dorsey, head coach Andy Reid and many who work for them — have made a point to draw a connection between these values and what is now their first string of three consecutive winning seasons since the 1990s. This was a nice and marketable thing to say for the franchise rocked by the Jovan Belcher tragedy four years ago this fall.
Well, that team just drafted a man who, fewer than two years ago, was arrested after his girlfriend walked into an emergency room eight weeks pregnant with bruises and cuts on her face and neck. The woman told police Hill punched her multiple times in the face and stomach, put both hands around her neck, slammed her head against a wall, and threw her to the floor.
As part of his guilty plea, Hill signed a statement that read: “I was in a fight with my girlfriend that turned physical between us and I wrongfully put (her) in a headlock, putting external pressure on her neck that compressed her airway causing bodily injury.”
The Chiefs drafted this man because he’s good at returning punts and kicks.
“I know that I would never put this community in any type of situation where it would not be good and we’ve done that,” Dorsey said. “I would like to ask for you guys to just have a little bit of trust in us in this thing.”
Dorsey and Reid held an impromptu meeting with reporters Saturday evening. Neither had planned on talking until Monday, but after selecting Hill made an attempt at a united front. Dorsey referenced his 6-year-old daughter. Reid talked about his work fighting domestic violence, and even taking on Michael Vick after the dogfighting scandal. Both said they had researched Hill’s background enough to be comfortable with him as a person as well as a player.
But these are football men, not life counselors, and they did all of this because Hill is good at returning punts and kicks. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder once called Hill “the fastest man in the world.” The woman he allegedly choked told police Hill “thought it was okay to punch and shake her.”
Domestic abuse is an enormous problem in this country, and heinous bursts of violence like the one that put that pregnant woman in the hospital is one of the few places that right-minded people can agree.
It is never OK for a man to hit a defenseless woman. Not legally, not morally. That is the act of a coward, not a man, and there are far too many women who lose their basic human rights or worse at the hands of males who can’t control themselves.
The most heartbreaking part of domestic violence is how hard it is to convict, and how males often get off relatively easily while the women are changed forever. Hill pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement, is taking anger management courses, and if he meets the terms of a probation through 2018, the incident will be wiped from his record.
Look, nobody should be judged entirely on their worst moment. People deserve second chances, and Hill has apparently been forthcoming about his mistakes, and stayed out of trouble after landing at Division II West Alabama.
But there have to be certain lines that can’t be crossed, certain sins that can’t be forgiven, and certain acts of violence on defenseless women that can’t be forgotten.
That last part is important, by the way. Forgotten. Because the Chiefs — whether they think about it in these terms or not — are betting that anyone offended at the news of their drafting a man who committed such a monstrous act will forget by the fall.
They are betting that football will win the day, and if we’re all honest, that’s always been a pretty good bet.
For the exceptionally gifted, there is almost always a market, so long as the value outweighs the risk. The only place where this is more obvious than major professional sports is major entertainment.
All of which — if we can talk about football for a moment — makes this an even worse decision for the Chiefs. The upside just isn’t there. He is jaw-droopingly fast and elusive, but tends to go down easily after contact. He is just 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, did not dominate at Division II, and his NFL.com draft profile projected him to be undrafted.
This is a lot of trouble for a guy who may not even make the team.
Hill’s selection is a reminder of something that’s always true in sports, but is so often lost amid the loyalty and passion and the way many of us have built parts of our lives around these games:
The teams we follow are businesses, and are run by men making business decisions.
The Chiefs are betting that Hill is worth it based on a few assumptions. First, that Hill will not so much as get a speeding ticket in Kansas City, and it might help if he met with domestic violence groups here.
But more than that, the Chiefs are betting that the positive value of Hill’s football talent will outweigh the negative value of the anger the team heard from fans almost immediately after the pick was made.
Hill can help if he turns out to be Devin Hester, but the Chiefs are also betting that the initial anger won’t last more than one local news cycle, and certainly not the four months between now and the 2016 season.
Here’s hoping they’re proven wrong.
Some sins should never be forgotten.