On Nov. 30, the NFL added another chapter to its ongoing struggles with domestic violence issues. Kareem Hunt, star running back of the Kansas City Chiefs, was cut from his team after a video of him appearing to violently push and kick a woman surfaced online. Hunt did not sign with any other team during the season and was relegated to watching the season from home.
Recently, Hunt has signed a contract with the upstart Cleveland Browns. Hunt and current Cleveland running back Nick Chubb will form a fearsome duo that will likely terrorize defenses next year. In terms of talent, the Browns have found a great deal for a running back with star potential that could elevate their offense to new levels.
However, many fans in the NFL are up in arms about Hunt’s signing. The NFL has a long history of star players dealing with domestic violence issues. Linebacker Reuben Foster faced abuse charges and was subsequently cut by the San Francisco 49ers before later signing with the Washington Redskins. In 2017, the Dallas Cowboys’ star running back Ezekiel Elliott also faced abuse accusations and eventually suspended six games after a year-long investigation.
The most similar case to Hunt’s came in 2014, when a video of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice appearing to violently beat his fiance in an elevator surfaced. Although Rice’s case was much more severe, the two cases are eerily similar due to the presence of video evidence. Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, a decision that was overturned in federal courts. However, no NFL team has tried to sign Rice, and he has been out of the league since his infamous video came to light.
Perhaps that is why the signing of Hunt came as a shock to so many. Video evidence of the alleged incident exists, and yet he was still signed early on in the off-season. Hunt is currently on the commissioner’s exempt list, meaning that he can’t play in a game until the NFL has completed its investigation and determined an appropriate punishment, which will likely come in the form of a multiple game suspension, probably ranging from six to eight games.
The NFL and its players clearly have a major issue on their hands when it comes to domestic violence charges. Other leagues like the MLB and NBA have had some players who have been faced with domestic violence cases, but not at the magnitude that the NFL has had to deal with. Domestic violence cases revolving around NFL players may also be more publicized in sports and news media simply due to the league’s popularity.
In addition, Hunt’s signing calls the handling of domestic violence cases by the 32 individual NFL teams into question. The Chiefs were lauded for their handling of Hunt’s case, as within 24 hours of the video being released Hunt was already cut from the team. The Chiefs were in the thick of the playoff race and got there primarily off the back of their dynamic offense, revolving around the “three-headed dragon” of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Hunt. The Chiefs had a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl title, and cutting Hunt greatly reduced their odds.
However, the Chiefs will receive no awards or accolades for their proper handling of the Hunt scenario. Instead, the Browns will reap the rewards of signing a player with a troubled past. Cleveland already had a promising season last year with rookies Baker Mayfield and Chubb, and were able to snag Hunt on a cheap deal due to his ongoing case. Sure Hunt will likely be sidelined by a suspension, but he will likely play for at least half a season, providing plenty of time to make an impact with his new team. In just 11 games last year, Hunt rushed for nearly 1,000 yards on less than 200 attempts, good for 4.6 yards per carry.
It is clear to see that the NFL has a lot of issues stemming from domestic violence cases. The NFL in general should consider toughening its stance on domestic violence, introduce more programs and address how individual teams handle cases.
Why were the Chiefs under immense pressure to discipline Hunt, while the Browns will receive little to no retribution for signing the same player only a few months later?
Is a multiple game suspension enough of a punishment, especially if there is indisputable video evidence of the crime or should Hunt even be allowed to return to an NFL field at all?
These are just some of the questions that the NFL will have to deal with during its investigation of Hunt, and in the ongoing battles with the domestic violence issues that have plagued the league.