OPINON: Kareem Hunt signing is a major miscalculation

headshot_Alex Cala

Alex Cala

Looking at the NFL’s official Personal Conduct Policy, you can see the emphasis the league purports to place on disciplining its players.

This 8-page document defines discipline for criminal acts that are deemed to bring embarrassment and undue attention towards the league, meaning an actual conviction is not necessary to face punishment.

This policy has been used on players such as Michael Vick (who was suspended for two years for dog-fighting) and Adrian Peterson (who only played one game in 2014 after being indicted for child abuse), incidents that indeed clouded the league in bad publicity.

Generally, it is usually never a good thing to be on the NFL’s disciplinary record; I would imagine players such as Vick and Peterson don’t strike many as paragons of integrity for their actions and subsequent inclusion in this club.

This is why it’s troubling that in spite of this, the Cleveland Browns announced the signing of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt on Monday; a player who isn’t officially part of the team, but may be in the future.

Hunt was released by the Chiefs on November 30 after TMZ Sports published a video of a February 2018 incident in which he assaulted a woman in a Cleveland hotel, an incident which the NFL had investigated but has yet to formally discipline Hunt for.

In response to the video, the league placed Hunt on the Commissioners Exemption list, which bars him from certain activities and is usually a precursor to a suspension.

For an organization like the Browns, having troubled players on their roster is nothing new. However, given they couldn’t help steer wide receiver Josh Gordon away from his substance abuse problems before deciding to release him last year, I don’t have much faith in the organization to steer Hunt in the right direction.

The fact that general manager John Dorsey seems to be willing to be patient with Hunt and, as he puts it, allow the running back to earn the organization’s trust is a little hypocritical considering the situation with Gordon.

It’s almost as if Dorsey was willing to overlook Hunt’s issues simply because he drafted him during his time in Kansas City, a nepotistic action that trivializes the seriousness of Hunt’s acts.

If a man like Gordon, who was open and honest about his substance abuse problems, wasn’t given a fair shot because he wasn’t one of “Dorsey’s guys,” why does Hunt deserve one?

After all, Hunt does have a checkered history; he was accused of two other violent acts during 2018 and was suspended for two games during his junior year at Toledo. This isn’t to say he doesn’t deserve a second chance, but this probably isn’t his first one of these.

Additionally, based on the shock that seemed to reverberate through the NFL from Hunt’s signing, it seems like these incidents are more than just isolated occurrences and are indicative of a larger issue in his character.

Do the Browns really want this corroding presence in the locker room? What message does this send to the fans, players and other organizations in the NFL?

However, that has happened before, the distinct possibility remains that if Hunt performs well on the field, all will be forgiven.

After all, Hunt did lead the league in rushing yards his rookie season, and he would form a deadly three-headed ground game with Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb.

Even Vick and Peterson were able to rebuild their careers and goodwill with the fans after their issues, second chances that may not have been deserved, but still given.

If this happens and Hunt returns to his former glory, can it be said he really faced any punishment? Will the fans, owners or league feel any guilt about welcoming him back, almost as nothing ever happened? My guess would be no.

In the end, the only thing that seems to matter in the NFL is on-field results; we’ve seen this with the success experienced by Vick and Peterson, and will likely see it with Hunt. Just don’t be surprised when it happens and the NFL overlooks Hunt’s true character in favor of another sappy redemption story.

Alex Cala is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].