Thousands of Kansas Citians — those who are football fans, and those who aren’t — will likely be shocked at the Chiefs’ decision Friday to release star running back Kareem Hunt.
There can be no mistake, however. It was the right thing to do.
A video surfaced Friday showing Hunt shoving and kicking a woman. The video was taken in February, at a hotel in Cleveland.
The abuse was already known to National Football League officials and the Chiefs. But the video revealed additional details of the altercation, details the Chiefs apparently didn’t know.
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“As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video ... confirms that fact. We are releasing Kareem immediately.”
Hunt must have been aware that misleading his employer about the incident would be disqualifying. But the violent dispute is itself deeply disturbing, and the behavior is certainly grounds for dismissal from the football team.
There can be no explanation, and no excuse, for a man to strike a woman. That is especially true for a professional athlete, who must be held to the highest possible standards of behavior.
More than 38 million women have been victims of domestic violence, according to Psychology Today. It takes many of those victims years of therapy to recover, if they recover at all. Hunt’s behavior was abhorrent and unacceptable, and sends the worst possible message to his fans and supporters across the country.
The young football star apologized for the incident. “I deeply regret what I did. I hope to move on from this,” he told ESPN. He has not been charged with any crime.
His apology is valuable. His future in professional football is up to its member teams and the league, which must once again examine their own efforts to teach players about the horrible impact of domestic abuse.
The NFL and the Chiefs must also be transparent about their roles in the investigation of the altercation. A league spokesman said Friday that the video was not available for them until that day, when it first appeared on TMZ, an entertainment website.
But the lack of punishment for Hunt after the incident was first revealed suggests the initial investigation by the team and the league was less than thorough. It should not take video evidence for Hunt’s employers to take action against the player for such violent behavior.
A full investigation of the Chiefs’ reaction, and the NFL’s, is warranted.
The Chiefs have a special responsibility here. Linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend on Dec. 1, 2012, then took his own life in the parking lot of the team’s practice facility. The Chiefs must redouble their efforts to focus relentlessly on their policies and practices involving domestic violence.
This story is a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for the young woman who suffered in the fight. It’s a self-imposed tragedy for a young athlete with a bright future, who entertained Kansas City football fans. It’s a major setback for a sports league that has seen similar incidents far too often.
But Kansas City’s football team made the correct decision to let Kareem Hunt go. We applaud them for it, and urge them to do their best to see it doesn’t happen again.