Kareem Hunt incident shows NFL still not taking domestic violence seriously
In February, the Chiefs quietly supported Kareem Hunt after he was involved in an altercation involving a 19-year-old woman in Cleveland. In August, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt stated Kareem Hunt (no relation) was a “young man” who “learned some lessons this offseason,” and that he was hopeful that the running back wouldn’t be suspended for the incident. On Nov. 29, the Chiefs encouraged fans to vote Hunt into the Pro Bowl.
And on Nov. 30, the Chiefs swiftly released Hunt.
What changed? A video of the incident emerged on Friday afternoon, showing Hunt shoving and kicking the woman — a video that the NFL and the Chiefs say they couldn’t obtain because the police and hotel wouldn’t cooperate.
And for the NFL, that was the turning point — not hitting a woman, but the fact that it was caught on video.
The league proved once again this past week that it doesn’t take violence against women seriously unless there is a video. That was the takeaway point from the Ray Rice fiasco in 2014, and four years later, not much has changed.
The Chiefs happily stood by Hunt for nine months until the video was released on Friday (Cleveland police declined to press charges against Hunt).
And Tuesday, the Redskins callously claimed linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers, after he had been released by the 49ers following his domestic violence arrest last weekend. Foster allegedly pushed his girlfriend and slapped her in the face with an open hand, and he was arrested in the team hotel in Tampa, spending the night in jail.
It marked the second time this year that Foster was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence — he was arrested on multiple counts in February but the charges were dropped in May. He also was arrested in January on marijuana charges.
But no video of the Foster incident has been released (yet), so the Redskins are more than happy to give him the benefit of the doubt, and to pay him $51,512 per week for the rest of this season. Foster is a talented linebacker who is under contractual control for two more seasons, so for the Redskins, that’s more important than Foster’s troubling history with domestic violence.
“We’re hoping that things come out and it wasn’t the way that everything has been perceived,” Redskins vice president Doug Williams said in a disastrous interview on team-owned station 980-AM this past week. “We knew there was going to be some backlash. The high risk was the beat-up that we’re going to take from PR. We understood that from a PR standpoint, and we’re taking it.”
In both the Hunt and Foster cases, the NFL’s investigation processes were revealed as a sham. In a statement Friday night, the Chiefs blamed Kareem Hunt for not being truthful with team executives when discussing the incident in the spring.
“Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact,” the Chiefs said.
OK, but how about the fact that the Chiefs simply relied on the statements of a 23-year-old trying to save his career? Why didn’t they talk to the woman, or try to obtain the hotel video? If the Chiefs were actually concerned about the allegations, why didn’t they try to find out more on their own?
The league office is trying to defend the Chiefs, saying the Cleveland police and the hotel put up too many roadblocks to obtain the video.
“Neither the NFL nor the Chiefs had seen the video before it was released Friday,” stated an NFL.com story that read like a press release. “The NFL made several attempts to obtain it. The hotel said it was corporate policy to only turn over surveillance video to law enforcement. Cleveland Police Dept. public information officer Jennifer Ciaccia confirmed to NFL.com the police did not release the video.”
Yet, magically, TMZ obtained the video. Yes, it pays money and often doesn’t come upon these videos organically. But the NFL is a big, powerful organization. Every team employs a security team comprised of ex-police officers, or who at least have strong ties with local police. The league office or the Chiefs couldn’t have leaned hard on the hotel or the police to at least see the video? Or asked someone from the Cleveland Browns’ security team to try to call in a favor from the police? Or use some of that $14 billion in annual revenue to pay for the video, like TMZ did? And if the police and hotel really are being stubborn about supplying the video, the NFL needs to say so, well before TMZ obtains and releases it.
Kareem Hunt’s actions were deplorable, and no one should feel sorry for his release. But Clark Hunt and the NFL trying to take the moral high ground is disgusting. This is the same team that drafted Tyreek Hill in 2016, two years after he pleaded guilty to punching and strangling his pregnant girlfriend.
It’s hard not to draw parallels between Hunt’s situation and the one involving Rice and the Ravens four years ago — the team and the league willfully looked the other way and supported the player, until TMZ published a video making everyone look foolish.
And the Redskins’ decision to claim Foster also highlighted the lack of due diligence the NFL seems to put into these domestic violence cases.
Williams’s initial statement noted that the Redskins claimed Foster only after “candid conversations with a number of his ex-Alabama teammates and current Redskins players who were overwhelmingly supportive of us taking this chance.”
But then the Washington Post reported that at least two of Foster’s former Alabama teammates now on the Redskins were not asked about Foster before the team claimed him. The team never spoke to Jonathan Allen, a defensive leader who was Foster’s college teammate for three years.
“It wasn’t like we got to talk to all five,” Williams later admitted.
By the end of Williams’s radio interview, it became clear that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Williams, and team president Bruce Allen made a snap decision to claim Foster without knowing what happened. USA Today reported that only the Eagles contacted Tampa police for information on the incident.
Even worse, Snyder and Allen are hiding from accountability and making Williams and coach Jay Gruden answer to it.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan couldn’t believe that a team actually claimed Foster off waivers.
“I was a little surprised,” Shanahan said. “I mean, not the team in particular, but that someone did.”
But he shouldn’t be. A video of Foster’s incident either doesn’t exist or hasn’t been released yet. And as proven yet again this past week, that’s all the league cares about.
TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL
Jackson’s job not OK with Mayfield
Baker Mayfield made very clear his distaste for Hue Jackson’s decision to join the rival Bengals as a defensive coach after being fired by the Browns.
In last Sunday’s game, a 35-20 win for the Browns, Mayfield gave Jackson a handshake and a quick hello, but rejected Jackson’s hug and moved on quickly from the conversation.
“Didn’t feel like talking to him,” Mayfield said after the game. “He was here trying to tell us to play for him. Then he goes to a team we play twice a year. That’s how I feel.”
Mayfield later called Jackson “fake” on an Instagram comment, though he didn’t elaborate.
Mayfield has taken plenty of criticism from ex-players, media, and fans who believe he is being overly sensitive. Jackson was fired by the Browns, after all, and shouldn’t he be allowed to work for whomever he wants? And Mayfield has been called a hypocrite, as he transferred from Texas Tech to rival Oklahoma in college.
“I didn’t like the move and people don’t have to care,” Mayfield said Wednesday.
But count this writer as squarely on Team Mayfield in this one.
First of all, it is definitely weird, or at least unprecedented, that Jackson joined the Bengals midseason. Fired coaches receive the full balance of their salary even after being canned, and almost always go home for a few months before looking for new work for the next season.
And Jackson’s situation is far different from Mayfield’s in college. Mayfield was an unpaid, nonscholarship player looking to find a place to showcase his talents and earn his way into the NFL. Jackson’s contract is guaranteed, and he already has forged a long career as an NFL coach. He certainly didn’t need the work this year.
And all Mayfield basically said was he didn’t respect Jackson’s decision to join a rival, who still had two games with the Browns on their schedule when Jackson was hired. Chalk it up as an athlete using a perceived slight to motivate him, something that happens every day in the NFL. I’m betting Mayfield’s former Texas Tech teammates didn’t love his decision to join Oklahoma, either, and that’s OK.
Frankly, it would be strange if Mayfield and the Browns didn’t take offense to Jackson joining the Bengals.
“I’m not looking for anybody’s approval,” Mayfield said. “I don’t regret any of it.”
TRADE A BIG WIN IN BIG D
Cooper a catch for the Cowboys
Trading for Amari Cooper has worked out well for Dallas, with his 30 catches for 424 yards and three TDs in five games with the surging Cowboys. But two other trade deadline deals are not working out according to plan.
The Jaguars traded for Browns running back Carlos Hyde last month, but the five-year veteran is disgruntled over his lack of playing time and carries behind Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon. Hyde, who had 114 carries for 382 yards and five touchdowns in six games with the Browns, has just 27 carries for 93 yards and no touchdowns in four games with the Jaguars.
“I went from starter [in Cleveland] to not getting the ball at all, down to third string,” Hyde told the Florida Times-Union. “I just want to play more and be more involved.”
And the Eagles’ trade for Lions receiver Golden Tate has not been productive. Tate had 44 catches for 517 yards and three touchdowns in seven games with the Lions, but just 11 catches for 97 yards and no scores in three games with the Eagles.
“It’s all new to me. I’m feeling it all out,” Tate said. “I think it’s just going to be reps. We try to take advantage of those in practice. If we have any time in between periods, I know we’re talking through things and we’re running extra routes to make up for that lost time.”
Helmet penalties not often called
Here’s a new one: a complaint that the NFL isn’t calling enough penalties.
Specifically, the NFL has stopped calling the lowering-the-helmet penalty that it emphasized so much in the spring, summer, and preseason.
No one wants to see the penalty called as much as it was in the preseason — 51 times in the first 33 games. But officials are now missing blatant leading-with-helmet and helmet-to-helmet hits, failing to flag dangerous hits against Washington tight end Jordan Reed on Thanksgiving and against the Saints’ Alvin Kamara on Thursday.
The NFL quietly told officials midway through the preseason to only call the penalty in the most blatant cases, and that the league office would rather fine players after the fact then bog down the game with subjective penalties. But officials have stopped calling it altogether — just eight times all regular season, according ESPN. That’s too much of an overcorrection, and officials are missing blatant and dangerous hits.
NBC analyst and former referee Terry McAulay believes that the NFL has gone too far in both extremes.
“After seeing the Kamara hit last night, this is the exact play the rule was intended to eliminate,” McAulay tweeted on Friday. “Although I can’t help but wonder had the NFL properly focused on calling these types of hits correctly in the preseason, rather than the throw-everything approach, would they be better now?”
■ According to makeNFLplayoffs.com, the Patriots have a 21.67 percent chance at the No. 1 seed, a more than 49 percent chance of earning a first-round bye, and a 43 percent chance of getting the No. 3 or 4 seed. Basically, it all comes down to that Week 15 game in Pittsburgh (and taking care of business otherwise).
■ One stat where you don’t expect to see Tom Brady near the top of the leaderboard: “poor throws,” a metric kept by STATS, LLC. Brady averages a poor throw every 16.9 pass attempts, which is the fifth-highest rate in the NFL, and only lower than a quartet of youngsters: Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold.
The past two seasons, Brady had the 27th-highest poor throw rate. Most seasons, he ranks in the teens. He was seventh in 2013, and 36th in 2010. “Poor throws” doesn’t take into account intentional throwaways, either. Brady seems to be throwing balls into his receivers’ feet, or wasting plays deep, more than ever.
■ Another week of the Patriots receiving no love from the Player of the Week awards or Pro Bowl voting. The Patriots usually rack up the weekly awards — especially Brady, Stephen Gostkowski, and Rob Gronkowski — but this year they only have one, Dont’a Hightower as the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking a punt against Chicago.
And the Patriots still trail across the board in Pro Bowl fan voting. They have no players in the top 10 overall vote-getters, or among the top two at their position. Brady is sixth among quarterbacks, and Gronkowski fifth among tight ends.
■ Speaking of Gronkowski, with rumors swirling about him calling it quits after this season, it was interesting this past week to see Gronk confirming that he’s going to hold his seventh annual youth camp next June at Woburn High. It may mean nothing, or it could mean that he’s already thinking about being in town during the offseason program next spring.
The leagues says that the combined TV ratings for games this season are up 5 percent from last year. Forty-six of the top 50 shows on television this fall have been NFL games, and the Cowboys-Saints game was the highest-rated Thursday night game ever . . . Bruce Arians is talking openly about wanting the Browns’ head coaching job, which perhaps shows how attractive that opening is. The Browns have Mayfield, a talented young roster, and a lot of salary-cap space, and can probably have their choice of head coaches for next year. The only wild card is the owner, but he gave Hue Jackson more than enough time to prove himself . . . Ben Roethlisberger leads the NFL with four red-zone interceptions this year. Only Denver’s Case Keenum even has three.
Tough year on the ownership front. Texans owner Bob McNair became the fourth to die, joining the Seahawks’ Paul Allen, the Saints’ Tom Benson, and the Chargers’ Alex Spanos. Jerry Richardson’s ouster in Carolina makes five teams changing leadership this year.