Today was a tough day for football fans everywhere. Kareem Hunt just signed a one-year, greater than $1 million contract with the Cleveland Browns. That’s right, two months after Hunt was released from the Kansas City Chiefs, he is now signed by another NFL franchise.
Hunt was released from the Chiefs after a video of him punching and kicking a woman surfaced on TMZ. He then lied to the Chiefs about the video.
The NFL placed him on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. What that means via the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, is that he is not eligible to play until he is reinstated by Roger Goodell. He will also not count towards the Browns’ roster until he is reinstated. That said, he will still be paid. Roger Goodell has full control over the Exempt List, and the Browns have no say over his status. The NFL updated the Personal Conduct Policy after Ray Rice to place players on the Commissioner’s Exempt List “when an investigation leads the Commissioner to believe that a player may have violated this Policy” by using “physical force or a weapon to injure or threaten another person”.
The NFL has stated that its investigation into Hunt’s conduct should be ending soon. Once the investigation is complete, the public will find out how long his suspension is, or if he has any future with the NFL.
The optics of the situation are horrible. Less than 5 years after the Ray Rice debacle, another star NFL player was signed even though there is undeniable proof on video that he has physically assaulted a woman. It is hard to understand why an NFL franchise would be willing to even sign him. On one hand, he deserves due process and should be treated like any other player who has violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. On the other hand, the evidence against him is clear, indisputable, and forever stored on video.
Browns GM John Dorsey stated that Hunt is not guaranteed a spot on the Browns’ roster. But, even signing him is a bad look considering the Browns past player personnel decisions (Josh Gordon, Johnny Manziel). Dorsey has been known to take chances on troubled players before (Tyreek Hill, Antonio Callaway).
After a while, you begin to wonder when enough is enough. Sure, we all want to believe in second chances, but some violations are so appalling that you would think Dorsey and other NFL GMs would wait for the conclusion of the NFL’s investigation before providing an opportunity for a troubled player.
Dorsey’s approach runs counter to Roger Goodell’s often stated “zero tolerance” policy for domestic violence and abuse of women. Moreover, it’s a risky business decision. If Hunt is found guilty of violating the Personal Conduct Policy – which seems inevitable given the video – he is subject to a suspension of six games for what appears to be criminal battery. More importantly, however, Dorsey’s decision clearly focuses upon wins and losses, demonstrating a loss of perspective of the social implications of giving Hunt a second chance.