Kareem Hunt pushed and kicked a woman and that would have been OK. He is good enough at football that the Chiefs might have stuck by him. If not them, then certainly someone else. That’s the way the NFL operates, after all.
But then he lied.
And now he’s unemployed.
“Kareem was not truthful,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “We are releasing Kareem immediately.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
This is shocking, and there isn’t a lot in sports that should be shocking anymore.
NFL teams are notorious for allowing their principles to be shaped by talent, but the Chiefs just released one of the best running backs on the planet and an important part of what may or may not still be the league’s most dynamic offense.
There is no way to know what might’ve happened if Hunt was truthful from the beginning, but the Chiefs’ statement gave the impression that this was about the lie.
He made chairman Clark Hunt — no relation, he’d want you to know — look bad and weak. That was Kareem’s fatal sin, revealed in a video that was obtained by TMZ Sports from a surveillance camera at a Cleveland hotel.
One bit of logistics before we proceed. The Chiefs knew immediately upon seeing the video that Hunt would never play for them again. They waited until the NFL put him on the Commissioner Exempt List to ensure he wouldn’t play against them this season.
Because there is always a football element to this, no matter how any of us view domestic violence or the cultural shift against it over the last few years. Hunt might play for someone else. The Chiefs just wanted to make sure it wasn’t against them this season.
OK, now some perspective. This is not Ray Rice 2.0. Maybe we need to say that plainly, because this is another video of another NFL running back being violent with a woman in a hotel. People made that connection immediately, including in the TMZ story. But Hunt is not dragging a woman he beat unconscious across the floor.
That does not make Hunt’s actions acceptable. Neither does any excuse of kids being kids, or alcohol-induced bad decisions. We don’t know what the woman said or did outside the video, but that doesn’t matter in terms of what’s most important here. Don’t hit a woman. It’s not hard.
The rest of Hunt’s career — assuming there is a career — will be viewed in some ways through the prism of this video. He will not outrun this. No apology can completely eliminate the stench.
In the video, he is seen shoving a 19-year-old woman hard, twice, and later knocks a friend into the same woman, sending both crashing to the ground. Then the kick.
It’s also noteworthy that the Chiefs star running back’s friends thought to take cell phones from the woman and her friends, presumably to delete anything being recorded.
Before the video came out, the February police report showed this as one of those awful, unfortunate, and hazy he-said-she-saids. With the video, it is clear that Hunt was violent, and that no provocation that has so far been offered could be used as reasonable justification.
Many questions remain, two more notable than others:
Law enforcement and presumably prosecutors saw the video and still declined to press charges. Why?
And does Hunt — who also allegedly punched a man in the face in June — have control or anger issues that make him a danger?
But those are questions for another day, and another debate.
The same week one team signed a struggling linebacker who’d been arrested on another domestic violence charge, the Chiefs released a star running back apparently for lying about an incident that did not involve charges.
There will be connections made between this and Tyreek Hill, the star receiver drafted by the Chiefs two years ago. At the time, Hill was on probation after pleading guilty to punching and strangling his then-pregnant girlfriend.
The Chiefs said they were confident Hill was committed to be a better man, and at least so far the decision could not be more productive. Hill is among the league’s best receivers, without even a rumor of any trouble.
Their situations are different for a lot of reasons, most obviously that Hill’s crime happened when he was in college. He had taken ownership of it, and already been punished beyond the legal system when Oklahoma State revoked his scholarship.
Hunt was a professional representing the Chiefs, and he lied.
We can get distracted with the argument over what’s acceptable and what’s not, over what’s worth a suspension and what’s worth a release. Maybe we can take that up at some point. For now, here’s what’s clear:
Kareem Hunt cost himself money, reputation, and the pursuit of a Super Bowl ring this year for the stupidest of reasons.
Clark Hunt has responded in the strongest way possible, one that may cost his team on the field. There are no moral high grounds left in the NFL, but this is at least a move sacrificing short-term football for broader priorities.
Kareem has made himself a fool. Clark refused to play one.