Can Hunt’s sec­ond chance lead to change?

Nancy Ar­mour: Sign­ing con­firms that NFL’s only prin­ci­ple is still self-in­ter­est

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

Some­one was al­ways go­ing to sign Ka­reem Hunt.

A year re­moved from lead­ing the NFL in rush­ing as a rookie, Hunt is too big a tal­ent, has too much on-the­field up­side, for some NFL team not to take a chance on the trou­bled run­ning back. So now what? Howl in ou­trage at the NFL’s con­tin­ued dis­re­gard for women or ex­press dis­gust that its only prin­ci­ple re­mains self-in­ter­est? Boy­cott the Browns for the aw­ful mes­sage they’re send­ing?

Or do we put them all on no­tice and de­mand they fol­low through on the lofty in­ten­tions the Browns ex­pressed in an­nounc­ing their sign­ing of Hunt on Mon­day. Make sure Hunt uses this as an op­por­tu­nity not only to turn his life around but also serve as a cau­tion­ary tale for other young men.

There re­ally isn’t much choice.

It would be nice if we lived in a world where there was zero tol­er­ance for phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse, where the health and safety of women mat­tered as much as the power and priv­i­lege of men. But we don’t.

Al­most five years af­ter Ray Rice, NFL own­ers re­main a not-so-shin­ing ex­am­ple of that mind-set. As long as Greg Hardy can take down a quar­ter­back, Ezekiel El­liott can run through day­light and Josh Brown can kick a 50-yard field goal, the bruises and shat­tered psy­ches they in­flict on women are con­sid­ered ac­cept­able trade-offs.

Com­mis­sioner Roger Goo-

dell can is­sue lengthy sus­pen­sions — as he likely still will for Hunt — and tout all of the money the league has do­nated to The Na­tional Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Hot­line, and it will do lit­tle good un­less own­ers get on board.

Or are forced to fake it, with the hope they’ll even­tu­ally be en­light­ened.

So fine, the Browns can sign Hunt. But, as a con­di­tion, they must pub­li­cize the “de­tailed plan with ex­pec­ta­tions” that gen­eral man­ager John Dorsey is now on record as say­ing the team has for Hunt, and pro­vide monthly up­dates of his progress. Is he meet­ing with a psy­chol­o­gist? Go­ing to anger man­age­ment classes? Tak­ing steps to avoid or re­move any­thing and ev­ery­one in his life that trig­gers his tem­per?

The Browns also must ex­plain ex­actly what the “ex­ten­sive due dili­gence” was that they did be­fore sign­ing Hunt, and if that didn’t in­clude speak­ing with the vic­tims, why not.

As for Hunt, he’ll need to give a full ac­count­ing of what hap­pened the night of that aw­ful video, as well as the Jan­uary 2018 in­ci­dent at a Kansas City bar in which a man said Hunt was part of a group that beat him up and the June 2018 fight at an Ohio re­sort that the NFL in­ves­ti­gated. No de­tails can be spared,

no ex­cuses made.

Hunt will also, when the peo­ple in charge of his treat­ment deem it ap­pro­pri­ate, need to speak with in­com­ing rook­ies and high school boys about his ex­pe­ri­ence, much like Rice does now. Ex­plain where the rage in­side him

stemmed from. Ac­knowl­edge what it cost him, from the money he lost af­ter be­ing cut to the em­bar­rass­ment he caused his friends, fam­ily and ev­ery­one else who’d put their trust in him. De­scribe the tools he’s us­ing to en­sure he never harms any­one again.

If Hunt or the Browns fall short any­where, then the NFL steps in. None of these $10,000 fines that amount to pocket change, ei­ther. A third- or fourth-round draft pick to start, along with ev­ery penny the team would nor­mally make from a home game — con­ces­sion sales, park­ing, in-sta­dium ad­ver­tis­ing, you name it. Any­thing that doesn’t go to­ward the league’s rev­enue shar­ing pot, the Browns have to give up, with the money be­ing used for ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams de­signed to break the cy­cle of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Any more episodes by Hunt, or in­di­ca­tions he’s not sin­cere about his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ef­forts, and he’s banned for two sea­sons. That’s a healthy enough chunk of time to act as a de­ter­rent yet still pro­vides in­cen­tive to get help so he can be a de­cent per­son who treats oth­ers with dig­nity and re­spect.

Be­cause that’s what this is all about. Hunt is go­ing to be out of the league a lot longer than he’ll be in it, and it’s in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­ests that the cy­cle of vi­o­lence stops with him. Oth­er­wise, we’re do­ing lit­tle more than kick­ing the can down the road.

The can might be out of sight, but some­body is go­ing to have to deal with it even­tu­ally.

Some team was al­ways go­ing to sign Ka­reem Hunt. Now that the Browns have, it’s up to them and the NFL to en­sure more good comes out of it than a few touch­downs and 100-yard games.

Nancy Ar­mour Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

JAY BIGGERSTAFF/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Run­ning back Ka­reem Hunt rushed for 2,151 yards and 15 TDs in 27 games for the Chiefs be­fore he was sus­pended.

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