[CW: This article discusses physical assault, sexual assault and domestic violence].
Near the end of the last NFL season, TMZ Sports released a video of then-Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, with the title “KC Chiefs Running Back Kareem Hunt Brutalizes and Kicks Woman in Hotel Video.” My instant reaction to this is not something I am proud of. I was elated.
You see, the end of the NFL season is also the time when the fantasy football playoffs begin. And in my highly competitive league filled with high school friends, I owned Hunt’s backup, Spencer Ware. If Hunt were to miss time, Ware would take his highly lucrative position as the starting running back in the Chief’s high-octane offense.
I was excited again less than an hour later, as the Chiefs released Hunt. I wish I could say my delight was because I was happy to see an NFL team finally taking a moral stand, but it wasn’t—I was just happy to have a new starting running back to play.
It turned out Ware did not actually replace Hunt, and the starting slot instead went to the presumed third-stringer, Damien Williams. Fortunately for me, I had also added Williams to my roster, and he played a key role in my eventual run to the championship (This isn’t particularly relevant, I just try to mention it whenever possible). Along with his contributions to my team, the Goodwin Express, Williams performed well for the Chiefs on the field, making their decision to cut Hunt seem justified, at least from a football perspective.
What is not justified is the non-football reasoning that led to the Chiefs cutting Hunt. Don’t get me wrong, he deserved to be cut, but why I think so and why the Chiefs think so are likely very different reasons. While the video leaked by TMZ did indeed show Hunt shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel hallway, many believe the real reason the organization cut ties with the player was something other than these violent actions. This theory is further supported by the troubled history of the team’s other offensive star, wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
During his time in college, Hill was accused of beating his pregnant girlfriend: choking her, striking her and throwing her against a wall. He eventually pled guilty to domestic abuse by strangulation (Sports Illustrated, “Tyreek Hill pleads guilty to domestic abuse, receives three years probation,” 08.21.2015). Despite this, the Chiefs still drafted Hill in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. Just last week they signed him to a new contract worth over 54 million dollars and making him the second-highest paid wide receiver in the league. Three years prior, and again a week ago, the same organization that released Hunt without a second thought decided that Hill deserved a second chance.
Given that the Chiefs felt justified locking Hill in as a key player in their team for years to come, despite his abusive actions, it seems likely that they shared the same disregard for the violent behavior on the part of their star running back. Frankly put, their reasons for releasing Hunt are likely unrelated to his violence. It could have been that Hunt had previously lied to the team about his actions in the hotel, or that the more publicised and recent nature of his offense meant more backlash. Regardless of the actual reason, the relative violence of the two players’ offenses were clearly not the deciding factor in the Chiefs’ front office decisions.