NFL Investigation Into Kareem Hunt Questioned After TMZ Leaks Video
NFL officials made "multiple attempts to obtain the video" showing former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt pushing and shoving a woman during a February incident at a Cleveland hotel but were "denied by the hotel, which indicated that corporate policy dictated that the footage would be made available only to law enforcement," according to a source cited by Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. The source also said that NFL investigators "attempted to speak to women involved in the incident but they did not respond to requests to be interviewed" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/1). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez noted as the NFL faced increased criticism for not obtaining the video that led to Hunt's release by the Chiefs, Cleveland Police Sergeant & Public Information Officer Jennifer Ciaccia said that "no one within the department -- even those who responded in the early morning hours on Feb. 10 -- had viewed the video before TMZ posted it Friday" (USATODAY.com, 12/1). Sources said that "neither the NFL nor the Chiefs had viewed the video before it became public" (ESPN.com, 11/30). THE ATHLETIC's Nate Taylor cited sources as saying that the Chiefs "knew video evidence of the altercation existed, but they were told by the NFL to stop pursuing it later in February once the league began its investigation." However, the league "couldn't obtain the video" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/1). One team exec said it is "fair to say that people are wondering why" the NFL had not seen the video and how a league investigation did not uncover it (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/3).
LEAGUE NEVER TALKED TO HUNT: ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the NFL "never got a hold of Kareem Hunt and spoke to him" following the incident. The league also "never spoke to the woman involved." Schefter: "It did speak to other witnesses at the scene and were basically told that Kareem Hunt was not a part of this." Hunt during a live interview confirmed the NFL never spoke to him ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 12/2). NBCSPORTS.com's Peter King asks, "Why didn't the NFL, even if it couldn't speak to the woman or see the tape, speak to Hunt?" Even if Hunt "lied to the league, the attempt must be made." The league investigators "might have been able to get more out of him" than coach Andy Reid did. There is "only one word for the league's inaction here: inexcusable" (NBCSPORTS.com, 12/3). THE MMQB's Albert Breer writes he believes the NFL and the Chiefs "made an effort to get to the truth in February and March." But he also believes it is "fair to question the intensity of that effort." There are "at least a few owners who want the NFL to get out of the investigation business entirely, and this shows another reason why: Too often, without subpoena power or other tools available to law enforcement, they're going to wind up looking like the Keystone Kops" (SI.com, 12/3). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton cites a source as saying that the "standard protocol is to interview the player after all the information had been gathered" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/3). SI.com's Michael McCann wrote under the header, "Five Key Legal Points Surrounding Kareem Hunt" (SI.com, 11/30).
TIME TO DO MORE TO GET VIDEOS: ESPN's Schefter said the question "continues to be asked" about how TMZ can get videos like this and the one in the Ray Rice case in '14, but the NFL cannot. Schefter: "The best we can tell is that TMZ is willing to pay for this information. You would think that the NFL, it would be valuable enough for the league to do that. But it hasn't" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 12/2). CBS Sports' Amy Trask said, "Historically, teams in the league have not been willing to do what outlets like TMZ have been willing to do to get video. They feel ethically or otherwise constrained. It may be time to re-think that. Not to do anything illegal, but to do more to gather video." CBS' Bill Cowher: "I would like to think the NFL could find a way to get these videos before TMZ does. I think we all would like the league to take a conformed approach to this" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 12/2). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the NFL is a multi-billion-dollar business that is "far bigger and more powerful than TMZ," so it is "fairly presumed that the league has the ability to get anything that TMZ is able to get." If the NFL "doesn't have the current internal expertise to get videos that TMZ seems to always obtain, maybe the NFL needs to hire someone from TMZ to help the NFL figure out how to get those videos." The league should "always be relentless when it comes to tracking down any and all video of any player incident, since it always should be assumed that the video will inevitably emerge" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 12/1). THE RINGER's Kevin Clark wrote it has been four years since the Rice case, and TMZ is "apparently still the NFL's best investigator" (THERINGER.com, 12/1).
ALL BARK, NO BITE: In Boston, Ben Volin wrote the NFL "proved once again this past week that it doesn't take violence against women seriously unless there is a video" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/2). SB Nation's Charles McDonald said, "If the video hadn't come out, I'm pretty sure Hunt would be playing (yesterday) in the Chiefs' game against the Oakland Raiders." McDonald: "It's incredible to see (the league) be so reactionary all the time" ("Nightly News," NBC, 12/2). National Network to End Domestic Violence President & CEO Kim Gandy said if it is a "particularly valuable player," teams will "cross their fingers and hope he changes his behavior." Gandy: "Sometimes crossing their fingers works, and sometimes it doesn't" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/3). THE RINGER's Claire McNear wrote it "doesn't matter" whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or the people he employs "saw the video." Nor should a video be "necessary to force the league into action." It matters that the NFL "didn't care, and it matters that after so many years of telling us that football will do better and be better, the truth it still clear: It won't" (THERINGER.com, 11/30). In DC, Thom Loverro writes the NFL's failure with the Hunt case means the league has again "let down its supporters, especially the women who constitute an estimated 45 percent of its fan base" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/3). SI.com's Robert Klemko wrote under Goodell and the current owners, the NFL will "always be reactionary, always beholden to public opinion, and seemingly never able to simply assess a crisis and do the right thing" (SI.com, 11/30).
SHOOTING THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT: YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote the NFL was "experiencing a dream season," and now here comes its "old foil -- an inability to handle charges of domestic violence." The fact the situation "unfolded as it did is troubling." This is "Ray Rice 2.0, inaction spinning into scandal once the visual comes out." It was "avoidable, a self-inflicted wound in a season going so well" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/30). USA TODAY's Nate Davis writes the NFL's issues at the moment are "completely self-inflicted and utterly regrettable." Nothing like "derailing what had been a feel-good season previously highlighted by bushels of points, resurgent TV ratings and emergent stars" (USATODAY.com, 12/3). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell noted this past week was the "worst week for the NFL" since September '14, when the Rice video was released. The fact that the NFL did not even interview Hunt is "incredibly weak" and "another significant hit to the league's credibility" (USA TODAY, 12/3).
POTENTIAL FALLOUT? The POST's Maske wrote it "remains to be seen" whether the Hunt and Reuben Foster cases and the NFL's handling of them will "spark outrage among fans and lead any to turn away from the sport." Those in and around the league for now are "left to begin evaluating whether the NFL and its teams learned from the past and handled these cases appropriately." However, one high-ranking team official "expressed support for the league's actions." The official said, "Both players (Foster and Hunt) were placed on leave. What the Redskins did (by adding Foster), that's a team decision. The league has no control over that. I don't know what more could have been done any earlier in the other (Hunt) case" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/1).