A Repeat of the Ray Rice Case? Kareem Hunt Hardly Compares

Careful comparing Kareem Hunt's story to Ray Rice's. The two cases carry key differences despite seeming similar on the surface.
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Kareem Hunt is not Ray Rice, and Hunt’s story is not Rice’s. Yes, sure, the stories seem so similar right now. It’s an easy and obvious comparison. In 2013, Rice was accused of assaulting a woman but remained on a Super Bowl contender, the Ravens. Then TMZ released a video of his assault, the public was shocked and horrified, and within hours, Rice’s career was over.

The Hunt news Friday felt like the least imaginative horror-movie sequel ever. Hunt, like Rice, is a star running back. He was accused of assault months ago but remained on a Super Bowl contender, the Chiefs. Then TMZ released a video of his assault, the public was shocked and horrified, and within hours, Hunt was put on the commissioner’s exempt list and then cut.

It seems the same. But there are some key differences here. One is that Rice was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor offense, and then indicted by a grand jury for third-degree aggravated assault, a felony. Hunt was never arrested or charged with a crime.

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It is absolutely baffling and infuriating that Hunt was not arrested or charged — it is hard to watch that video and not have reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred. There are some serious questions that should be asked in the coming days about why the system apparently failed. But those questions must be asked of authorities in Cleveland, where the incident occurred.

Even the NFL’s harshest critics must admit it’s not the league’s job to arrest its players.

This brings us to the next crucial difference: The NFL knew damn well what Ray Rice did soon after he did it. There is no indication, at least right now, that the NFL knew what Hunt did until Friday. That could change, of course. You never know what might come out. But as of this writing, we have no evidence that the NFL failed here.

To recap the Rice case: soon after Rice resolved his criminal case and entered a pretrial intervention program, he and his wife Janay met with commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell suspended Rice for just two games. He later claimed the punishment was so light because he didn’t know exactly what happened in that elevator. Essentially, he claimed Rice misled him. But Ray and Janay Rice were always adamant that they told the truth to Goodell. And when Ray Rice appealed his suspension, Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled in his favor, stating clearly, “Rice did not lie or mislead the NFL at the June 16 meeting.”

Hunt’s case, again, is not the same. The Chiefs said Friday that when the team talked to Hunt about the incident in the offseason, “Kareem was not truthful in those discussions.” Of course it’s possible Hunt was truthful. But that’s not what he said Friday. He said, “I want to apologize for my actions. I deeply regret what I did. I hope to move on from this.”

If you think Kareem Hunt told the commissioner or the Chiefs, “sure, I wasn’t even charged, but I did punch and kick a woman” … well, that seems awfully unlikely.

Back to Rice: On the day that TMZ released the Rice video, the league also claimed, "We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator.” That was not true, either.  The Associated Press reported days later that a law-enforcement source had sent the video to the league and received a voicemail confirming its arrival.

Almost two months before TMZ released the video, one of the most plugged-in reporters in NFL history, Chris Mortensen, described what it contained: “he strikes her hard, and her head, according to sources I’ve spoken with, struck the rail inside the elevator and she was unconscious.”

This was, of course, exactly what happened.

The NFL knew. The player’s crime was the punch, but the league’s scandal was that it knew about it.

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I suppose it’s possible that Goodell had this Kareem Hunt video on his phone for months. But come on. After the Rice debacle caused a firestorm that lasted for months, do you really think the NFL commissioner would hide a video like that? The man has made some well-documented mistakes, but he is not an idiot.

It is more plausible that the NFL did not really try to get the Hunt video, as it claims. But we have no indication of that right now.

Kareem Hunt is not Ray Rice, and his story is not Rice’s story, precisely because they seem so similar. The league has learned from what happened last time. Goodell botched the Rice investigation and suspension, and his punishment was months of well-deserved horrible publicity. Goodell didn’t really admit all of his mistakes. But it’s safe to assume he learned from them.