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Kareem Hunt: Did the NFL Learn Nothing From Ray Rice?

In February, the Chiefs back was involved in an altercation at a Cleveland hotel. No arrests were made, and Hunt wasn’t disciplined by the league. But on Friday, video surfaced that appears to show Hunt pushing a women during the scuffle and then kicking her while she lay on the ground. On Friday night the Chiefs released the 2017 NFL rushing leader.

Update: The Chiefs released Kareem Hunt on Friday night.

There’s video now, but still much we don’t know about how the NFL handled Kareem Hunt’s shoving and kicking altercation with a 19-year-old woman in a Cleveland hotel in February. We don’t know what the Chiefs or the NFL saw, or knew, before Friday, when TMZ released the video (which police reportedly acquired as part of their investigation) apparently showing Hunt pushing a woman and kicking her while she lay on the floor. We don’t know what Hunt told Chiefs personnel or NFL investigators looking into the case (or even the extent to which the team or the league did look into it). We don’t know if the NFL had any intention of suspending Hunt, or if it was just hoping this whole thing would blow over.

We do know a few things: The Chiefs cut Hunt on Friday night, and his NFL future is uncertain.

Four years ago another video of another NFL player attacking a woman became public, months after the league had already issued a modest two-game suspension to Ray Rice. The release of the Rice video—which showed him punching his partner in the face in a hotel elevator—forced the NFL not just to issue much sterner punishment, but to completely overhaul its personal conduct policy, with commissioner Roger Goodell pledging thorough investigations into allegations and reported incidents of violence involving NFL players. 

The NFL would from now on be evidence hounds, we were told, and the league would act on that evidence independent of law enforcement or the judicial system. In those efforts, the NFL would be guided by a handful of new hires experienced in investigating allegations of violence and advocating on behalf of victims. The league would be right, not reactionary.

As SI’s Michael McCann points out, it should have been no surprise to anyone that video of the Hunt incident existed. Whether the NFL or the team could have obtained that video on their own is unclear. But they certainly would have better means than TMZ of getting access to it. At the very least, the NFL could have asked Hunt himself to try to procure the video—or if that effort failed, to explain what might be on it. And yet for almost a year we heard nothing. Hunt was allowed to play, while the specter of this video’s release hung over him and the league.

A year ago Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for an alleged domestic violence incident. There was (to the best of our knowledge) no video evidence in that case, and no criminal charges were filed. But the league’s investigative arm drew on other evidence, including electronic messages and interviews with those involved, and banned Elliott for six games.

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How can such disparities happen? How can a multibillion-dollar business that constantly touts its own civic virtues to a national audience be so hapless when it comes to charting a moral course?

Call it Goodell’s Law. Under this commissioner and this ownership group, the league will always be reactionary, always beholden to public opinion, and seemingly never able to simply assess a crisis and do the right thing.

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