The Kansas City Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt on Nov. 30, 2018, just hours after TMZ posted video of an alleged assault involving Hunt. Less than three months later, Hunt was signed by the Cleveland Browns and was later given an eight-game suspension to start the 2019 season.
In February 2018, police were called to a Cleveland hotel to respond to an incident with Hunt and a woman.
In the video, Hunt is seen shoving a man and a woman and then later kicking the woman while she was on the ground.
KC Chiefs Running Back Kareem Hunt Brutalizes and Kicks Woman in Hotel Video https://t.co/p4epheQvJZ— TMZ (@TMZ) November 30, 2018
No arrests or charges were made at the time, but there was a complaint filed against Hunt. The Kansas City Star obtained police reports of the incident that listed Hunt as the suspect in the case and assault as the charge.
Hunt was also accused of assault for an incident at a nightclub in January, but wasn’t arrested or charged, according to TMZ.
In an interview with ESPN after his release, Hunt said that he did not know the woman he was seen attacking in the video in February. They met that night. Asked what led to the incident, Hunt only said that “there were some things said and did that I did not like.”
He also told ESPN that he did not see or know of the video’s existence until it was posted by TMZ.
Why did the Chiefs release Hunt?
The Chiefs knew about the incident, but they claim Hunt lied to them about what happened:
“Earlier this year, we were made aware of an incident involving running back Kareem Hunt. At that time, the National Football League and law enforcement initiated investigations into the issue. As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him. Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact. We are releasing Kareem immediately.”
Here’s what Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt said when he addressed the incident in August:
“The team’s made up of a bunch of young men,” Clark Hunt said via the Kansas City Star. “They’re not always going to make the best decisions, but we have a strong support system, both with the coaching staff and also with our player development department that works with young guys and talks to them about the situations that they want to be in.
“Kareem is a young man, second year in the league, obviously had a very big year on the field last year. I’m sure he learned some lessons this offseason and hopefully won’t be in those kind of situations in the future.”
Before the Chiefs cut him, Hunt was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list by the NFL. The league’s statement read:
The NFL has placed Kareem Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs on the Commissioner Exempt list, and as a result, he may not practice, play or attend games. The NFL’s investigation, which began immediately following the incident in February, will include a review of the new information that was made public today.
About a month after the Browns signed Hunt, the league announced the running back will be suspended for eight games.
Why did the Browns sign Hunt?
Less than three months after the Chiefs released Hunt, he was back on a roster on Feb. 11 when he was signed by the Browns.
Cleveland is led by general manager John Dorsey, who took over the job in 2017. Prior to that, he was the general manager of the Chiefs where he drafted Kareem Hunt. In a statement, Dorsey said his previous relationship with Hunt during the draft process and in Kansas City was part of the reason he believes the running back “deserves a second chance.”
Statement from GM John Dorsey: pic.twitter.com/TUgoBalvkg— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019
Dorsey has a history of giving chances to character risks. Among the most notable in Kansas City was his decision to draft Tyreek Hill, who was dismissed from Oklahoma State after pleading guilty to assault after he was accused of punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend.
In his first draft as general manager of the Browns, Dorsey took a chance on wide receiver Antonio Callaway who had been suspended by the University of Florida following an accusation of sexual assault.
Why was Hunt given an eight-game suspension?
As expected, the NFL suspended Hunt for more than the baseline six games for assault because of this incident and another one from June where Hunt allegedly punched a man at a resort in Ohio. A third incident came to light after the video of Hunt attacking the woman in Cleveland surfaced, and that will likely add to his punishment from the league.
That third incident occurred in January 2018, following the Chiefs’ playoff loss to the Titans. According to a police report obtained by TMZ, Hunt and another man, former NFL running back George Atkinson, allegedly beat a man who claims to have been coming to the defense of another man in a nightclub. Kansas City police said that the accusers would not cooperate and no arrests were made or charges filed.
TMZ has a video of that incident too, purporting to show Hunt being restrained after the fight.
Hunt admitted to his actions in the Cleveland incident and made a public apology for it in an interview with ESPN on Dec. 2. News of his third alleged incident came in the days after that appearance.
He was expected to admit his offense to the NFL when he interviewed with league investigators in December, rather than wait for the league to conduct a full investigation.
Hunt began counseling for alcohol use and anger management earlier in December, according to the NFL Network.
Why wasn’t Hunt suspended before this?
That’s the question the NFL is facing. Just because charges weren’t filed doesn’t mean players can’t be punished. As the personal conduct policy states:
It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.
The new policy came in response to the 2014 assault case involving former Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The league launches its own investigations if there’s a possibility a player violated the personal conduct policy. According to the NFL, it started its investigation into Hunt in February and could not get any alleged victims to cooperate. Investigators did not talk to Hunt, according to Adam Schefter, relying on his explanation to the Chiefs, which proved to be untruthful, instead. Hunt also confirmed that detail in his interview with ESPN, that the NFL did not reach out to him for an interview as part of its investigation into the incident.
After Hunt’s interview with ESPN, the NFL released a new statement, claiming its investigation is still in progress:
The NFL’s investigation began immediately following the incident in February. Consistent with standard investigatory practices, the NFL continues to pursue a complete understanding of the facts. The NFL’s ongoing investigation will include further attempts to speak to the complainants involved in the incident. It will include a review of the new information that was made public on Friday – which was not available to the NFL previously – as well as further conversations with all parties involved in the incident.
The league’s statement refers to the video as “new evidence,” though NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said the NFL tried to get ahold of the video — the same video that TMZ was able to obtain:
Neither the NFL, nor the #Chiefs, had seen the video before it was published today. I’m told the league made several attempts to obtain it. The hotel said it was corporate policy to only turn it over to law enforcement. Cleveland PD would not provide it to the league.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 1, 2018
The league’s claim that it attempted to obtain video was refuted by the Kansas City Star, though.
The National Football League did not file a formal request for records of the Feb. 10 incident in Cleveland involving former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt until Nov. 30, the same day TMZ published video footage of the assault at a hotel.
The Kansas City Chiefs never made a formal request, according to public records reviewed by The Star.
The NFL has been inconsistent with its punishment regarding these matters, even after altering its personal conduct policy following the Rice incident back in 2014.
Former Giants kicker Josh Brown initially received a one-game suspension after a domestic violence investigation. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was not charged, but the league investigated domestic violence allegations against him and then suspended him for six games. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was suspended for four games for “threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors” toward an ex-girlfriend. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for three games when he was accused of groping an Uber driver.
Last February, then-49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested on domestic violence and weapon charges. He was later suspended for drug and gun charges after his accuser recanted the domestic violence claims. Now with Washington, Foster is currently on the commissioner’s exempt list while he deals with his latest arrest for domestic violence.
The NFL doesn’t need legal charges to decide whether to suspend a player. It shouldn’t need video proof either.
What’s next for Hunt?
Hunt is cleared to play in the Browns’ ninth game of 2019. Getting scooped up by the Browns isn’t surprising considering other teams also expressed interest. The Bears, coached by Hunt’s former offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, were one such team.
“I talked to Kareem, completely wanting to know how he’s doing,” Nagy told the press after his season ended with a Wild Card game loss to the Eagles. “We had a good conversation. Here’s a kid that I spent a year coaching on offense. It’s a tough situation. I wanted to see ... making sure that he’s OK but understanding, too, the situation that happened is unfortunate for everybody. He knows that.”
That tepid response wasn’t the only one in favor of giving Hunt a second chance. Several other teams were reportedly interested in signing the former Pro Bowler once the league has ruled on his future. He’ll get that opportunity with the Browns at midseason.