When TMZ released a video last Friday showing former Kansas City leaders Kareem Hunt attacking a woman at a Cleveland hotel a few months earlier, she launched a wave of public criticism of the NFL, largely evoking the scandal of the domestic violence of Ray Rice. 2014.
While there are obvious parallels between the two cases – in both cases, TMZ has obtained and published the crucial videos that sparked the controversies – there are also fundamental differences that, according to some legal experts, illustrate the challenges faced by the NFL in investigating players with no law enforcement powers, or any interest in adopting the so-called "checkbook journal" tactics of TMZ.
"I do not know why we would want professional sports leagues to act like TMZ," said Gabe Feldman, a law professor and director of the sport law program at Tulane Law School. "The most difficult question is why these cases are not being pursued by the police. It is unfair to impose professional standards on professional sports leagues beyond those of our criminal justice system and to expect professional sports leagues to investigate better than law enforcement. "
In the Rice case, the guilt of the Baltimore Ravens at the time was unquestionable – he admitted that he had hit his fiancée at the time and thrown her into the Unconscious in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel in February 2014 – and that the NFL had made no effort. to get the video of the attack from the forces of order. Commissioner Roger Goodell then waited five months after the incident to punish Rice for a two-game suspension, described as outrageously mild when broadcast of the video of the attack by TMZ.
Hunt, on the other hand, denied assaulting a 19-year-old woman in front of her hotel room in Cleveland in February. The NFL tried to get the security video from the Cleveland police, but the agency did not get it because the police never asked for it before deciding not to file a complaint against Hunt. The NFL also attempted to get the video directly to the hotel, Metropolitan on 9, but the hotel management refused, the league announced. A hotel spokesperson did not respond to messages asking for comments.
Some victim advocates said the Cleveland police deserved just as much blame, if not more, than the NFL for not treating the Hunt case properly. A 911 caller and the Hunt woman assaulted the two implored police officers to review the hotel's security footage that night, according to agent body videos and 911 calls issued the last week, but the agents never did it. On Wednesday, Cleveland police announced the opening of an internal investigation into how his agents had handled the incident.
"It's appalling. . . Enforcement was a resounding failure, "said Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Women's Organization.
Van Pelt is one of those who suggested that the NFL should use evidence in some cases, which is probably the way TMZ got Hunt's video. According to a 2016 New Yorker article, TMZ paid close to $ 90,000 to Rice's video, probably an employee of the hotel. TMZ has not responded to a request for comment.
Some legal experts have cautioned, however, that the NFL is not a precedent for the payment of evidence in the investigations of its players.
"There is nothing purely illegal to pay for evidence, but it will be attacked by the union, it will be attacked by the lawyers of the players … and I do not think that it will play well before the court of the opinion. This is what really matters to the NFL here, "said Mark Conrad, director of the sport and business program at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University.
The experts could only recall one example of a professional sports league paying for evidence: Major League Baseball, during its investigation of Biogenesis, a Florida anti-aging clinic providing several players with prohibited substances. The MLB paid $ 125,000 to a former Biogenesis employee for documents allegedly stating which players had taken which substances. The players' lawyers – mainly Alex Rodriguez – publicly attacked the league for making the payment, which was one of many problems the parties fought in court for years.
An MLB spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Since the biogenesis scandal, there was no indication to the public that the MLB was paying for evidence in other investigations, and it is widely accepted that the league has abandoned this practice.
Feldman accepted the NFL's criticism for not interviewing Hunt after the February incident, but noted that without the video, there is no guarantee that NFL officials could have obtained that Hunt admits to assaulting the woman. Hunt acknowledged that he had lied to the leaders about his actions that night, and the leaders released him hours after TMZ released the video last Friday.
"If the forces of order do not have the video and the hotel refuses to provide it, I think it remains to know what the league can do other "said Feldman. "It's a delicate situation, both legally and ethically. . . and I think the league is going to be criticized no matter what it's doing. "