Toronto Star

Shameful to let Hunt trail go cold

TMZ obtaining video the NFL could not find raises serious questions


Why does it always take a video?

That’s the question that NFL commission­er Roger Goodell, his closest associates and the highest-ranking Kansas City Chiefs officials must answer in the wake of Friday’s surfacing of a video that revealed running back Kareem Hunt brutally attacking a woman in February.

Sure, the Chiefs did the right thing Friday night when they announced the immediate release of the second-year star. And the NFL announced slightly earlier Friday that Hunt had been placed on the commission­er’s exempt list, which would have prevented him from playing or practising until the completion of the league’s investigat­ion into the case.

But save your applause for the Chiefs and the NFL. Their indignatio­n comes about nine months too late.

It should not have taken TMZ’s release of a video showing Hunt attacking, shoving and kicking a woman for both the league and team to take the right steps on the transgress­ion.

Regardless of the circumstan­ces that led to the altercatio­n, and despite the fact that no charges were filed, Hunt’s behaviour was disgusting and inexcusabl­e.

It amazes me that even after the release of the video, some fans willingly defended Hunt and conjured excuses. Don’t give me that.

Don’t give me any excuses of “he’s a young man, and young men don’t always make the best decisions.” Don’t brush it off as “he’s just a football player.” Don’t turn a blind eye just be- cause he’s one of the best running backs in the league.

There is no excuse for Hunt’s actions.

Whether you agree with the Chiefs’ decision to release him, there’s no denying he deserved harsh punishment.

The NFL has to take domestic violence seriously. It has to go beyond lip service, and punishment­s have to be levelled on a consistent basis. Again, why did it take a video? A league spokespers­on said until Friday afternoon, neither the NFL nor the Chiefs had seen the video that TMZ obtained and released.

But it’s curious that the NFL, with all of its resources, had no luck securing footage while the media outlet did. According to a person with knowledge of the efforts, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivit­y of the situation, league investigat­ors tried to obtain security camera footage from the complex where Hunt’s altercatio­n took place. But they were told that corporate policy prevented the management company from turning over video to anyone but law enforcemen­t.

The NFL’s investigat­ors tried to get a copy of the video from the police, according to the person, but once again were refused. The same person also said the woman and other witnesses did not respond to the NFL’s attempt to gather more informatio­n about the incident.

The investigat­ion did include the review of the recording of the 911 conversati­on between Hunt’s victim and the dispatcher. But beyond that, the investigat­ion turned up few details and remained at a standstill since the summer.

But you can’t help but wonder about the level of urgency that the NFL and Chiefs shared as the initial details of the altercatio­n took place.

The league and team both knew the circumstan­ces. Hunt violated the league’s personal conduct policy in February, so he should have received swift punishment. Instead, he was allowed to play in every game this season.

Certainly, the team investigat­ed the matter, to some degree. So it’s troubling that in July, Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt simply brushed off the running back’s actions like a teaching moment. During training camp, he told reporters, “Kareem is a young man, second year in the league, obviously had a very big year on the field last year. I’m sure he learned some lessons this offseason and hopefully won’t be in those kind of situations in the future.”

Learned some lessons? C’mon man.

Taking their initial handling of Hunt’s situation into account, the NFL and its teams don’t seem to take domestic violence as seriously as they would like you to believe they do. Sure, league officials hold all kinds of women’s leadership summits, and the teams’ charitable foundation­s sponsor all the women’s initiative­s they want.

But their track record indicates a very calloused view of domestic violence. Maintainin­g a positive image and conducting booming business are the forces that drive the NFL and its owners. That’s why history has repeated itself. That’s why four years after it took a video for Goodell to give Ray Rice a harsh punishment, the league has found itself in the a similar situation. That’s why the Chiefs have previously classified their star running back’s transgress­ions as a youthful mistake, only to release him after gross embarrassm­ent. That’s why the Washington Redskins earlier this week pounced on Reuben Foster just 72 hours after he was arrested on domestic violence charges.

NFL brass and team officials always seem to think that they’re the smartest in the room. They decide when the rules apply. They pick and choose when they want to be vigilant.

Yes, TMZ is known to pay for evidence. But it’s hard to believe the NFL, which employs many individual­s with strong ties to law enforcemen­t agencies, truly exhausted its options in try- ing to figure out what happened back in February.

The Chiefs and other teams hire investigat­ors to dig into draft prospects. They have the resources to look deeply into nearly any matter involving personnel.

But again, the caring extends only so far. That’s why the search for truth in this Hunt case went cold in the summer. That’s why Tom Brady and his underinfla­ted footballs received the same four-game ban as Ben Roethlisbe­rger did after being accused of sexual assault. That’s why many forgot all about Roethlisbe­rger’s 2008 incident. That’s why time (and lots of touchdown catches) quickly overshadow­ed memories of Tyreek Hill’s 2015 admissions (prior to his arrival in the league) of abusing his pregnant girlfriend.

But it’s time to really care. The lip service must end. The hypocrisy must stop.

It’s unclear when Hunt’s punishment will come down from the league. But Goodell has to send a clear message with a ban.

And the fallout has to extend beyond a suspension. It should go without saying, but there’s never an excuse for a man to put his hands on a woman in a violent manner. Teams must educate their players and help them understand how to deal with conflict in a non-physical matter.

Sure, the release of Hunt could cost the Chiefs — one of the most electrifyi­ng teams in the league — a chance at the Super Bowl.

Fans will express outrage and downplay the seriousnes­s of Hunt’s actions. But this is bigger than football.

Domestic violence is an everescala­ting act and a matter of life and death. Goodell, the NFL, and the teams and players must treat it as such.

 ?? JASON HANNA GETTY IMAGES ?? The Kansas City Chiefs cut star running back Kareem Hunt after TMZ Sports published a video of striking a woman in February.
JASON HANNA GETTY IMAGES The Kansas City Chiefs cut star running back Kareem Hunt after TMZ Sports published a video of striking a woman in February.

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