Now that the Cleveland Browns’ signing of Kareem Hunt has had time to percolate and simmer for a day, some impressions are possible.
But not many clear ones. Because this situation goes in so many different directions, with so many emotions involved.
The reason is simple enough: What the former Kansas City Chiefs running back did in a video’ed attack on a woman is heinous. Exactly what sparked the incident isn’t really clear, but that frankly doesn’t really come into play, at least for this observer. The actions/reactions of Hunt are the exhibits. It’s impossible not to have a visceral reaction of some sort.
What’s actually a little clear is that the NFL and its teams have some bizarre investigation approaches. Browns GM John Dorsey said that it had conducted an extensive investigation, with “extensive” apparently not including talking to the victim. For its part, the NFL has said that its investigation is still in progress. The Chiefs are that much faster or “extensive” than the NFL?
This writer gives the Bears considerably more credit for due diligence in their handling of the Ray McDonald case in 2015. At least then, Chairman George McCaskey got involved to the point of reaching out to McDonald’s mother. Her feelings may have been predictable but at least an effort was made beyond just talking to psychologists and such.
The McDonald effort blew up almost immediately in the form of another incident, and the Bears moved in a zero-tolerance fashion and got rid of him. The signing had made some sense from the standpoint of getting a plug-and-play 3-4 defensive lineman, who’d played for then-coordinator Vic Fangio, and coming to a team converting its entire front. In any case, an overall, bottom-line conclusion is that Hunt should not be barred from playing in the NFL. That kind of ban represents a death sentence, and Hunt did not commit a capital offense, however repugnant.
The level of repugnance should be reflected in the suspension that is expected before Hunt ever pulls on a Browns uniform. Some question does linger as to why Cleveland law enforcement did not pursue a case of assault and battery against Hunt, but that belongs to another discussion.
The fact that the Chiefs summarily fired Hunt for lying to them looms over this. Realize: Kansas City’s coach is Andy Reid, a no- nonsense individual but who also went all-in to give Michael Vick a second chance after the latter’s dog-fighting conviction and incarceration. That Reid wasn’t willing to overlook the conduct of Hunt, the reigning NFL rushing leader and foundation pillar of Reid’s offense, is bothersome.
Matt Nagy was a member of Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles staff through the Vick saga and Reid’s Kansas City staff through Hunt’s exceptional rookie season.
The Bears were obviously open to signing Hunt, and their evident interest has been cited as a motivator for Cleveland to move quickly. That isn’t likely to make Nagy or GM Ryan Pace any more candid about future intentions in general; look what being open got them. Again, for another discussion.
But the ultimate judgement on signing a Kareem Hunt rests with the fan base. Personally, the willingness of NFL teams to sign Hunt, with a history of violence, and not sign Colin Kaepernick, with a history of simply exercising rights in a way that angered fans to the point of scaring teams away, is also bothersome. The Dallas Cowboys will sign Greg Hardy but no one will sign Kaepernick? Again, bothersome.
That said, if Hunt exhibits some of the effort Vick put into correcting issues (lobbying for curbs on dogfighting), it should not be beyond the pale for fans of a team to forgive a misspent past. The Browns apparently didn’t see that, though. Nagy had reached out to take Hunt’s emotional temperature around the end of the last football season and Nagy didn’t shut things down. Neither did the Browns, obviously.
But teams do occasionally listen, which explains the fear (of backlash) of signing Kaepernick. In the end, the public reaction does matter.