Thursday, 13 Dec 2018

The cases of Kareem Hunt and Reuben Foster give the NFL an unwelcome reminder of 2014

Kareem Hunt was the fifth-highest scorer in the NFL when he was released Friday by the Chiefs. (AP Photo / Kelvin Kuo, File)

The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell promised in 2014, while they were under fire for dealing with highly publicized domestic violence cases, they would never repeat the same mistakes. Goodell and the team owners reinforced the personal conduct policy of the sport, particularly with respect to domestic violence, and said they had learned the lesson.

For the NFL, last week's events were an unwelcome reminder of the 2014 crisis. Next, the league admitted to making mistakes in handling a case involving scoring midfielder Ray Rice, which was followed by the case involving running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Greg Hardy.

Just as the league was experiencing a rejuvenating 2018 season – with a captivating field game, growing interest and ratings on TV and a relatively small controversy – these 2014 tribulations have been revisited in recent days .

On Tuesday, NFL linebacker Reuben Foster took a paid administrative leave through the list of people exempted from the commissioner. The Washington Redskins have just called for waivers, sparking an uproar, after being released by the San Francisco 49ers following his arrest last weekend in Tampa for a domestic violence charge.

On Friday, the Kansas City Chiefs broke ties with halfback Kareem Hunt, the league's fifth-leading scorer, just after the NFL paid him off. The two actions took place a few hours after TMZ released the video of an incident that occurred in February in a Cleveland hotel, showing Hunt chasing and hitting a woman. Hunt was not charged with a crime during the incident, which had already been reported by the media.

It remains to be seen whether the Hunt and Foster cases and their treatment by the NFL will induce outrage among supporters and will incite some to turn away from the sport. For the moment, members of the league and around the league must begin to assess whether the NFL and its teams have learned from the past and handled these cases appropriately.

"It's too early to know the details of the underlying investigation," said Gabriel Feldman, director of the sport law program at Tulane University. "What we see is another example of the difficulty of pursuing violence against women. This is not a problem of the NFL. This is not a sport problem. It's a social problem. "

For the moment, there is no known evidence that the NFL has mismanaged these cases in the same way that it has mismanaged the Rice case, according to Feldman.

"The question is: has the league shown due diligence in its underlying investigation?" Said Feldman during a telephone interview on Saturday. "The team and the league acted quickly [in the Hunt case] once the video is out. Before the release of the video, they did not do anything. It's hard to blame the league at this point. It is plausible that they were unable to find evidence to suspend Hunt.

A senior NFL team official expressed his support for the league's actions.

"Both players [Foster and Hunt] were put on leave, "said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "What the Redskins did [by adding Foster]it's a decision of the team. The league has no control over that. I do not know what could have been done from earlier in the other [Hunt] Case. The league said it tried to get the video but could not.

The NFL said it was investigating the incident involving Hunt since February. According to a person familiar with the league's efforts, the hotel and judicial authorities rejected NFL surveillance requests and the women involved in the incident did not respond to interview requests from the league's investigators. .

When the NFL placed Hunt on the list of exempt persons, she cited the "new information made public" on Friday. The chiefs claimed to have released Hunt because he had not told the truth in previous conversations with the team's leadership about the incident, based on what the video had shown.

The video release in the Hunt case was reminiscent of the 2014 by TMZ, which showed that Rice was hitting a woman, then her fiancée and now his wife, in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City. This prompted the NFL to suspend Rice indefinitely, after suspending for just two games, and the Baltimore Ravens to release him. The indefinite suspension of the league was canceled on appeal but Rice has not played in the NFL since. Goodell called the original suspension two games of error.

In the Rice case, it was reported that a law enforcement official had sent the video of the incident to an NFL official before she did. be made public. The NFL denied seeing the video before it was released by TMZ. A report from former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III released in January 2015 concluded that there was no evidence that the league saw the video before it was is made public, but a written statement accompanying the report indicates that the NFL "should have done more with this information. it should and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information "about the incident.

The NFL has toughened its penalties for domestic violence cases in 2014 by setting a six-game suspension without pay as a basic disciplinary measure when a player is involved in such a case. The amended Personal Conduct Policy, ratified by the owners in December 2014, provided for the league to conduct its own independent investigations when a player or other employee is accused of misconduct. But the NFL had recognized at the time that such investigations were problematic.

"The disadvantage of conducting an investigation while the law is in place is that you may not have access to all the evidence you would like to have," said Lisa Friel, then a consultant to the league, at a meeting of owners in October 2014. "I mean, I've been a prosecutor for 28 years. I know what I could get with law enforcement, not just because of the power of summons. Because the alleged victim came to talk to me. The alleged victims may not always come and engage in an independent, parallel investigation if they undergo a law enforcement process. The alleged perpetrator may not be able to speak in this type of investigation because his criminal responsibility is potential. "

It was again evident in the Hunt's investigation by the NFL.

"The video is overwhelming," Feldman said Saturday. "It is problematic that TMZ was able to get the video. But there were no charges. The NFL has strengthened its investigative arm, but it remains difficult. "

There is a lot left to play. The NFL must decide on possible suspensions for Hunt and Foster. The NFL Players Association must decide to challenge any disciplinary action. The other NFL teams must decide whether to give Hunt a chance to resume his career in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the NFL is in the all-too-familiar position of being overwhelmed by a controversy whose intensity will become clearer in the coming days and weeks.

"You would like to be able to avoid these things," said the senior team leader. "But people make mistakes and do bad things, players included. You are looking after it as best you can and you hope it will be enough. "

Learn more about the Redskins and the NFL:

Kirk Cousins ​​still has not won against Minnesota, but his best chance is here

Five keys for the Redskins in their Monday Night Football match against the Eagles

Williams, Redskins, apologizes for his radio interview about Reuben Foster

Thomas Boswell: Snyder's biggest problem with Redskins fans is his inability to understand them.

Jerry Brewer: The benefit of the doubt? The Redskins did not win, especially after Foster.


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