The first thing is you hope it’s not true. If you’re the type, you pray it’s not true. Sounds like a terrible movie, doesn’t it? Not a reality anyone wants to accept. So you hope.
Tyreek Hill spent the last 4 1/2 years remaking his life, moving his story from a monstrous act to one of rehabilitation. Some point soon, the Chiefs planned to make him the NFL’s highest-paid receiver, handing him a contract worth generational wealth.
Now police and the Kansas Department of Children and Families are investigating an alleged battery at the Overland Park home Hill shares with his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, and their 3-year-old son. A source told The Star the victim is the son.
In 2014, Hill pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation, charges later expunged from his record after successful completion of three years’ probation. The victim was Espinal, who was pregnant at the time. The boy was born healthy, thank God.
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“The club is aware of the investigation involving Tyreek Hill,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “We’re in the process of gathering information and have been in contact with the League and local authorities. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”
We should pause here to recognize that the picture is still muddy. A police report and DCF investigation does not necessarily mean a crime was committed, and Hill has not been charged. You know how this works. But the parameters are heartbreaking. Life-altering. If true, the result is awful, most of all for the child and mother.
With the right help and a lot of strength, victims of domestic assault can be known as survivors, but the process can take years, an unnecessary and undeserved exit from the life they should have been free to lead all along.
The Chiefs selected Hill in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, his jaw-dropping speed still available not just because of his guilty plea but an uncertainty of his actual skill — he finished college at Division II West Alabama.
He drove an old beat-up sedan to his first training camp. The car looked out of place in a parking lot full of Range Rovers and sports cars and imposing pickup trucks. The Chiefs liked that. He was humble, grateful for the chance, eager to earn the opportunity.
They watched him grow from curiosity to return specialist to wide receiver to one of the most effective playmakers in the NFL. He attended every meeting and fulfilled every obligation. His probation expired last summer, and his conviction was dismissed. In football, he became a star. With the more important challenge of straightening out his life, he was viewed as an A+ student.
This past season was his football masterpiece: fourth in the NFL with 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns, a central part of the league’s best offense.
Hill is widely regarded as the NFL’s fastest player, and the Chiefs saw that speed and natural ball-tracking ability as the perfect pairing for quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ creativity and arm strength. They would make him the league’s highest-paid receiver and consider it a bargain.
That has to be on hold now, at the very least. If the allegations are true, Hill has done the most destructive and dumbest thing imaginable. All he had to do was not hurt those closest to him and at some point in the coming months he’d have had more money than he ever could have imagined.
That contract is now the least of Hill’s concerns. His career is at risk.
If the allegations are true, the Chiefs will and must release him immediately. They have a disturbing amount of experience with ugliness.
The franchise that was rocked seven years ago by linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide acted immediately and with principle in December when video surfaced of running back Kareem Hunt shoving and kicking a woman. They cut Hunt, citing not just the video but that he had lied to coaches and officials about the incident.
These allegations against Hill are far worse than what was on the video with Hunt. Potentially, two of the Chiefs’ best three playmakers from just four months ago will be gone.
That is a brutal thing for a franchise that promotes the citizenship of its players, but this was always a risk when the Chiefs brought in Hill. Even as the touchdowns stacked, they had to know that Hill might make them look like fools someday.
If proven true, Hill’s actions will leave a trail of victims — his fiancee and their son, most importantly, anyone he could have helped with the money secondarily, and way down the list, of course, the Chiefs’ hopes of winning their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
But there’s another rotten result that won’t leave the mind. Hill could’ve helped so many. People do awful things far too often, and many of them take self-improvement seriously. None of us should be judged forever on our worst moment. Hill could’ve been a high-profile messenger, a star in America’s most popular sport making the best of an opportunity.
Instead, these allegations put him in position to be the opposite. He could’ve represented hope for rehabilitation. Now his hopes are much different.