Tainted talent

On February 11, 2019, former Kansas City Chief Running Back Kareem Hunt was picked up by the Cleveland Browns. Hunt had been released by the Chiefs back in November after leaked video footage from February 2018 showed him repeatedly shoving a woman and eventually kicking her. 

Before his release, the 23-year-old was just beginning to break out as a key player of Kansas City’s potent offense. However, Hunt’s departure from the National Football League (NFL) didn’t last long, as he signed a contract with the Browns three months later. Because he was put on the commissioner exempt list—a list Roger Goodell keeps that excludes a player from being an active team member—he cannot practice or play in games until the NFL completes its investigation of the case. Regardless, many people are infuriated that Hunt has not been banned from football. Others believe that he deserves this second chance and that the incident has been a lesson for him.

This certainly isn’t the first time the NFL has dealt with domestic violence issues among players. 

In November 2018, linebacker Reuben Foster was cut from the San Francisco 49ers after he was arrested and charged with domestic abuse for slapping and shoving his girlfriend to the point that she was cut and bruised. The 24-year-old was put on the commissioner exempt list but picked up by the Washington Redskins just two days later. 

In 2014, Ray Rice was infamously charged with aggravated assault after video footage showed him knocking out his girlfriend in an elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Baltimore Raven star retired in 2014 after his arrest when no NFL teams showed interest. Charges against him were dismissed when he enrolled in a pre-trial intervention and rehabilitation program. (Often, charges are dropped, or prison time is short.)

Kareem Hunt was given a second chance largely because current Browns General Manager John Dorsey wanted Hunt’s talent for the team. Dorsey had confidence in the University of Toledo alum before he broke out on the NFL stage, so perhaps he took advantage of Hunt’s availability and brought him onto his team once again. 

Similarly, Redskins Head Coach Jon Gruden told the media he decided to bring on Reuben Foster since he is young and has a ton of football potential—Gruden understands that Foster made a huge mistake but is willing to take another chance on him as long as he performs well on the field.

Hunt went from domestic abuse charges to pickup by the Cleveland Browns in a span of three months. Foster went from domestic abuse charges to playing for the nation’s capital in a span of two days. Should this happen? Should players involved in a domestic abuse case be given another opportunity? 

I am conflicted. I am a fan of people being given a chance to make up for and learn from their mistakes. However, giving somebody a second chance without consequence, especially in this context, lets them off the hook for their past actions.

There’s a debate between morals and team need. Part of me wants their opportunity to play professional football again revoked because of what they did. The other part wants them to play because of their young talent and massive potential—especially with someone like Hunt, who had already established himself as one of the better backs in the NFL. 

Both Hunt and Foster had coaches and management who believed in them. I believe that while these players should not immediately be given another opportunity to play in the NFL, they should be allowed to earn their way back to the position they once held. This is where the Canadian Football League (CFL), as well as leagues such as the All-American Football League (AAFL) and the future XFL (which will commence in 2020) could help. Charged players would be banned for a certain amount of time and would be given the opportunity to spend that time in these leagues before being eligible to return to the NFL. As these leagues are comprised of former NFL players and young players aspiring to play in the NFL, the competition would still be strong, and the environment would still motivate the players to make it back to the NFL. 

Domestic abuse charges are no laughing matter, and the NFL has had quite a few to deal with the past couple years. I respect players like Hunt and Foster for their athletic and football abilities but do not believe they should have found another home in the NFL so quickly. I am all for second chances and proving oneself, but they ought to be earned.  

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