It’s a business decision. On that part we probably all agree.
Kareem Hunt is a gifted football player. That’s why the Cleveland Browns signed him. The Browns think the running back will help them win.
You don’t have to like it. And many of you probably don’t.
I don’t blame you. The video showing Hunt shoving and kicking an acquaintance in a Cleveland hotel last February is unsettling. It’s hard to get past that.
Just as it’s hard to get past the message this signing sent: that violence against women is forgivable, while kneeling during the national anthem is not.
More columns:Read more commentary from columnist Shawn Windsor
Countless football fans feel that way today. Because they understand Colin Kaepernick is still good enough to play in the NFL.
Sep 23, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (27) runs against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
Whatever you might feel about Kaepernick’s decision to protest what he considered police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the anthem, news of Hunt’s signing makes it hard to argue about what scares the league and teams more.
At the very least, the league might have asked its franchises to wait a while longer before reaching out to Hunt. The video surfaced barely two months ago.
In fact, when the video surfaced in December, the NFL placed the Kansas City Chiefs star on the commissioner’s exempt list. Shortly after, the Chiefs released him.
Hunt was never arrested for the incident, which is puzzling if you’ve seen the video. Yet that is beside the point. The evidence of violence is there. Enough for Kansas City to move on. BY EVERQUOTEDrivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Should Do This In 2019See more →
The league is still investigating what happened last February in that Cleveland hotel. And it’s likely that when the investigation concludes, Hunt will be penalized. This could include a suspension.
The Browns are aware of that. They said so in the statement:
“We fully understand and respect the complexity of questions and issues in signing a player with Kareem’s history and do not condone his actions. Given what we know about Kareem through our extensive research, we believe he deserves a second chance but certainly with the understanding that he has to go through critical and essential steps to become a performing member of this organization, aside from what the NFL determines from their ongoing investigation.
“We fully understand that Kareem is subject to discipline by the NFL. Here at the Browns, there is a detailed plan with expectations laid out that he understands and must follow, because any similar incident will not be tolerated.”
Kareem Hunt, left, and Colin Kaepernick. (Photo: Photo illustration)
The team’s general manager, John Dorsey, who drafted Hunt while serving as Kansas City’s GM, explained his reasoning for signing Hunt this way:
“There were two important factors: one is that Kareem took full responsibility for his egregious actions and showed true remorse and secondly, just as importantly, he is undergoing and is committed to necessary professional treatment and a plan that has been clearly laid out.”
Left out, of course, is Hunt’s ability to make defenders miss. His speed. His big-play talent. And how he might fit with the Browns’ promising young pieces on offense, including budding star quarterback, Baker Mayfield.
If you think the real reason is anything other than this, you don’t pay attention to the NFL.
Obviously, the NFL gave its blessing to the signing, or it wouldn’t have happened. As for the nod to second chances, well, in a vacuum they are fine, even critical in a society comprised of imperfect human beings.
In that sense, I don’t begrudge anyone’s second chance, nor have any reason to doubt the sincerity of Hunt’s call for forgiveness on Monday:
” … what I did was wrong and inexcusable. That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact. I’m extremely grateful that John Dorsey, Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns organization are granting me the opportunity to earn their trust … I am committed to following the necessary steps to learn and to be a better and healthier person from this situation.”
Dec 10, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey, left, talks with owner Jimmy Haslam before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Still, context matters.
If the NFL actually believed the words Dorsey used to justify Hunt’s signing, they would’ve found a way to reach out to the portion of the fan base turned off by Kaepernick. Many of whom, I suspect, will not turn off Browns games next fall.
Or plan boycotts. Or cheer the President if he were to weigh in on Hunt’s signing, which I assume he will not.
Dorsey said the Browns “fully understand and respect the complexity of questions and issues in signing a player with Kareem’s history.”
And in reading those words, it’s not hard to imagine a general manager making a similar plea regarding Kaepernick.
The NFL is giving Hunt another chance because they know they can sell it. That says plenty, obviously. They had a similar chance to release statements and craft platitudes regarding Kaepernick.
They didn’t. And haven’t. And likely never will.
That says even more.
This is a reprint from USA Today, Detroit free press Shawn Springs