In the days after a February altercation in the hallway outside Kareem Hunt’s Cleveland hotel residence, the Chiefs, who were annoyed to learn about the incident through police and press reports, brought in their star running back to ask what happened.
Hunt was given the opportunity to tell his side of the story, to explain what occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 10.
Instead, a league source said, Hunt told the Chiefs that he didn’t have anything to do with the altercation, that he stayed inside his room while his friends handled a situation with two women outside who wouldn’t leave.
But a video published Friday by TMZ showed that was not the case.
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Instead, it revealed the 23-year-old Hunt shoved a 19-year-old woman. She responded by hitting him in the face. He continued to go after her as his friends tried to restrain him. He shoved another person, who knocked into the woman and sent them both tumbling to the floor. Then, while the woman was on the floor, Hunt kicked her before walking back inside.
So what caused the nine-month gap between the altercation and the publication of the video that revealed Hunt’s lie? And what prevented the Chiefs and NFL from obtaining definitive information about Hunt’s role in the altercation back in February?
Police reports from that night included an interview with a woman who said she was “shoved and pushed” by Hunt. In a 911 call, a woman said “I was assaulted and I need help. ... I think his first name is Kareem.” There was no reference to a kick and no other witnesses in the police report say Hunt touched a woman. No arrests were made and no charges were filed.
Presumably to verify Hunt’s word in February, the Chiefs had initially pursued the video until they were told not to by the NFL, according to a source close to the team. That’s the standard operating procedure of NFL investigations. Once a team reports an incident to the league, the league takes over the investigation process — including gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.
But the NFL never spoke to Hunt or approached him after the February incident, Hunt told ESPN in a Sunday morning interview. A source close to the team was surprised to learn the NFL didn’t attempt to talk with Hunt.
No one in the NFL or the Chiefs organization saw the video until it was released Friday. According to a source with knowledge of the NFL’s investigation, the hotel told NFL representatives that it could only give video to law enforcement under corporate policy; the NFL contacted the Cleveland Police Department, which did not provide video to the NFL; and the NFL contacted the alleged victims, who did not respond to multiple messages.
Cleveland police also never viewed the video, department spokesperson Jennifer Ciaccia told USA Today. Because Hunt was not arrested and the woman he kicked did not appear to pursue a misdemeanor assault charge in municipal court, detectives didn’t follow up on the video.
“The victim would be referred to the prosecutor to file charges,” Ciaccia told USA Today in an email. “Detectives only follow up on felonies. This is a misdemeanor.”
With the knowledge from the video that Hunt lied about the situation, the Chiefs released the running back Friday night in a tearful meeting for not being truthful.
“I think you guys know me well enough to know that those kind of things are never easy,” coach Andy Reid said after Sunday’s 40-33 win in Oakland. GM Brett Veach and chairman Clark Hunt have not commented about Hunt’s release.
“The Chiefs are right,” Hunt said. “I didn’t tell them everything. I don’t, you know, blame them for anything. My actions caused this.”
Hunt didn’t give many details about what happened in February during his first public comments since the video’s release, adding only that they were arguing about a disagreement in the hallway of Hunt’s residence and there “definitely some things that were said and did that I did not like.”
“That’s not an excuse,” Hunt said. “It’s not. That person in that video did not deserve that. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody or anything like that. It’s really tough. It’s tough because I feel like I let a lot of people down, and I just really want to apologize to everybody. The Chiefs organization, my family and close friends.”
After beating the Raiders on Sunday, Chiefs players and coaches spoke about their first game without Hunt.
“I think Coach Reid does a tremendous job with that,” wide receiver Tyreek Hill said of team leadership. “Helping us with that stuff. He just told us just to put our head down and grind. That’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what this whole team’s been like. We’re very fortunate to have great leaders on this team.”
The Chiefs kept Hill, who pleaded guilty to domestic violence during college and has completed probation, to answering questions only about the game. Hill answered three questions and spoke for about 45 seconds.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a close friend of Hunt’s, said he spoke with Hunt in the aftermath of the video’s release but declined to get into specifics of what the pair talked about.
“I’ve talked to him,” Mahomes said. “I’ll probably keep it to myself between me and him. But I mean, we had a close relationship. I saw the stuff that happened and I mean, we don’t do those things.”
Wide receiver Chris Conley watched Hunt’s interview with ESPN on Sunday morning and also reached out to the running back. Asked about the concerns he had about Hunt’s situation, Conley said he was focused more on Hunt’s off-the-field development than anything else.
“Not really concerns about him coming back and playing the game or anything like that,” he said. “Really just about him taking the time, realizing what he did was wrong, owning that and growing.”
Hunt, who is on the NFL’s Commissioner Exempt List, can’t play or practice until he’s removed. According to a report from NFL Network, Hunt is expected to receive more than the baseline six-game suspension from the league for violating its conduct policy. Hunt is also accused of punching a man at a Ohio resort in June.
Asked if he had an anger management issue, Hunt told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that it was possible, though he hasn’t yet undergone any counseling.
“It could be an issue,” he said. “I feel like everybody gets a little angry sometimes and I’m going to get treatment on it. I want to make sure nothing like this happens again.”