Former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt spoke to ESPN’s Lisa Salters on Sunday, apologizing for shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February.
Someone was always going to sign Kareem Hunt.
A year removed from leading the NFL in rushing as a rookie, Hunt is too big a talent, has too much on-the-field upside, for some NFL team not to take a chance on the troubled running back. So now what? Howl in outrage at the NFL’s continued disregard for women or express disgust that its only principle remains self-interest? Boycott the Cleveland Browns for the awful message they’re sending?
Or do we put them all on notice and demand they follow through on the lofty intentions the Browns expressed in announcing their signing of Hunt on Monday. Make sure Hunt uses this as an opportunity not only to turn his life around but also serve as a cautionary tale for other young men.
There really isn’t much choice.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where there was zero tolerance for physical and sexual abuse, where the health and safety of women mattered as much as the power and privilege of men. But we don’t.
Almost five years after Ray Rice, NFL owners remain a not-so-shining example of that mindset. As long as Greg Hardy can take down a quarterback, Ezekiel Elliott can run through daylight and Josh Brown can kick a 50-yard field goal, the bruises and shattered psyches they inflict on women are considered acceptable tradeoffs.
Commissioner Roger Goodell can issue lengthy suspensions – as he likely still will for Hunt – and tout all the money the league has donated to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, and it will do little good unless owners get on board.
Or are forced to fake it, with the hope they’ll eventually be enlightened.
So fine, the Browns can sign Hunt. But, as a condition, they must publicize the “detailed plan with expectations” that general manager John Dorsey is now on record as saying the team has for Hunt, and provide monthly updates of his progress. Is he meeting with a psychologist? Going to anger management classes? Taking steps to avoid or remove anything and everyone in his life that triggers his temper?
The Browns also must explain exactly what the “extensive due diligence” was that they did before signing Hunt and, if that didn’t include speaking with the victims, why not.
As for Hunt, he’ll need to give a full accounting of what happened the night of that awful video, as well as the January 2018 incident at a Kansas City bar in which a man said Hunt was part of a group that beat him up and the June 2018 fight at an Ohio resort that the NFL investigated. No details can be spared, no excuses made.
Hunt will also, when the people in charge of his treatment deem it appropriate, need to speak with incoming rookies and high school boys about his experience, much like Rice does now. Explain where the rage inside him stemmed from. Acknowledge what it cost him, from the money he lost after being cut to the embarrassment he caused his friends, family and everyone else who’d put their trust in him. Describe the tools he’s using to ensure he never harms anyone again.
If Hunt or the Browns fall short anywhere, then the NFL steps in. None of these $10,000 fines that amount to pocket change, either. A third- or fourth-round draft pick to start, along with every penny the team would normally make from a home game — concession sales, parking, in-stadium advertising, you name it. Anything that doesn’t go toward the league’s revenue sharing pot, the Browns have to give up, with the money being used for educational programs designed to break the cycle of domestic violence.
Any more episodes by Hunt, or indications he’s not sincere about his rehabilitation efforts, and he’s banned for two seasons. That’s a healthy enough chunk of time to act as a deterrent, yet still provides incentive to get help so he can be a decent person who treats others with dignity and respect.
Because that’s what this is all about. Hunt is going to be out of the league a lot longer than he’ll be in it, and it’s in everyone’s best interests that the cycle of violence stops with him. Otherwise, we’re doing little more than kicking the can down the road.
The can might be out of sight, but somebody is going to have to deal with it eventually.
Some team was always going to sign Kareem Hunt. Now that the Browns have, it’s up to them and the NFL to ensure more good comes out of it than a few touchdowns and 100-yard games.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.