Browns, WWW

Some thoughts on the Kareem Hunt signing: While We’re Waiting

Kareem Hunt
Scott Galvin/USA TODAY

Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

We begin with, what else, the Kareem Hunt signing. I think a couple other WFNY writers have stuff planned on this topic, so these thoughts do not represent the site as a whole or anyone else. This is just how I view the situation.

For a while, the Cleveland Browns were becoming the new “America’s Team”. HBO’s Hard Knocks featured the Browns’ 2018 training camp and whether it was Jarvis Landry’s fiery “contagious” speech, the coaches rolling their eyes at Hue Jackson’s pointless monologue about his captain’s seat, Brogan Roback’s girlfriend desperately cheering for him to just get a chance to play in a meaningless preseason game, Carl Nassib’s profanity-laced financial words of wisdom(?), or Devon Cajuste’s relationship with both his father and his rocks, the Browns came off as a lovable group of upstarts.

Then the regular season came and for better or worse, the Browns were definitely interesting. Baker Mayfield took over for Tyrod Taylor on a Thursday night game against the New York Jets and led the Browns to a comeback win to snap the streak. Baker once told reporters how he woke up that particular morning feeling dangerous. The Browns fired Hue Jackson and replaced him with the ever-quotable Gregg Williams. Hue Jackson went to Cincinnati, and then Damarious Randle intercepted Andy Dalton and gave the ball to Hue. Baker gave Hue the coldest handshake after the game and went off on him to the media. In a later game, Baker would stare down Hue after throwing a TD pass against the Bengals. And oh yeah, the Browns won five of their last seven games. The Browns were fun. Fun on the field, fun off the field. America was taking notice.

There are plenty of reasons to not sign a player like Kareem Hunt, and public perception shouldn’t be one of the top reasons, but after the Browns announced the signing of Hunt, it’s hard to say America is feeling so great about the Browns anymore.

To be clear, if Hunt stays out of trouble and has success on the field, and the Browns have team success, this will all be something less than a footnote in history. When’s the last time the media mentioned Ben Roethlisberger’s multiple sexual assault allegations? Ray Lewis is unblemished in the eyes of the media. In football, we value winning more than anything else and morality be damned, we just want more points than the other team has. Yay, sports! Right?

Life can be exhausting when it comes to this stuff. Sports was always supposed to be our escape, yet it seems to routinely be asking us to set aside our personal ethics, morals, and beliefs and just go with the flow. Even in the absence of criminal charges, we ask our sports to still be judge and jury and hand out morality-based discipline. And then we as fans have to decide how to cheer for our team when they hire known abusers.

I’m burying the lede here, though. What did Kareem Hunt do, and what’s so bad about the Browns signing him? After all, someone was going to sign him, right? Why shouldn’t it be the Browns and John Dorsey?

Just a reminder, in case anyone forgot, Kareem Hunt shoved a woman and eventually kicked her while she was on the ground.

You can argue for what she allegedly may or may not have done to “deserve” this, but not kicking anyone, let alone a woman, while they are on the ground is such an incredibly low bar to clear. Yet here we are.

As for why the Browns shouldn’t have signed Hunt, well, I would say watch the video again and ask yourself if that’s someone you want to cheer for on Sundays. More importantly, imagine that woman on the video was your daughter or your sister. Imagine how it must feel to see someone you love go through that, and then have an NFL team turn around and send the message that it’s no big deal. That winning football games is more important than the feelings of the victim here.

It’s not that Kareem Hunt should never be allowed to play football again. Second chances are an integral part of the American experience. If he is truly remorseful and if he takes the appropriate steps to address whatever is going on in his life that allows him to behave as he did in that video, he should absolutely be allowed to play football again. The question, though, is how could he possibly have gone through all those steps already?

It was just 74 days ago that the Kansas City Chiefs made the quick decision that they didn’t want to be in the Kareem Hunt business anymore. Hunt missed the final five games of the season. The Chiefs were celebrated for swiftly making the right, but difficult, decision to move on. The incident itself happened around a year ago, in February 2018. You might think that means Hunt has had a whole year to reflect and improve, but he lied to the Chiefs about the incident and never really expressed regret until after the video was out. Only after the Chiefs cut him.

I don’t have a magic number for how many days it takes to achieve some self-awareness, contrition, and improvement. I can’t say that had it been 250 days instead of 74 days things would be different. I can just tell you that this seems incredibly quick to sign a player who did what Hunt did. It sends a damaging message out to both young boys and to young girls. It tells us it’s ok to look the other way, to just hope that people can change quickly. It tells us that consequences are minimized if you are an exceptionally talented person. It tells us that victims of sexual and physical abuse are rarely given more consideration than the perpetrator when the aggressor can help our sports teams win games.

Yes, I am a Cleveland Browns fan. I want this to work out. I want Hunt to be truly sorry and I want him to be able to change and be better off the field. And then if he can help the Browns on the field, so be it. But I’m also extremely disappointed in the Browns for making me feel this way. I’m disappointed that the Browns decided to be the team to hold their nose as they sign a player who was involved in such an ugly incident. I’m disappointed that so many Browns fans now have to try to justify this move.

I’m not a psychiatrist and I’m not an expert in abuse of any kind. I’m also nobody else’s morality compass. I’m not telling anyone else how they should feel about this. I just know that before yesterday, it felt good to be a Browns fan for the first time in years. Today, it feels less good to me. And that bums me out so much. This was supposed to be a fun offseason, but now it’s going to be an offseason of Kareem Hunt stories. Suspensions. Meetings. Discipline. Uneasy press releases and press conferences.

John Dorsey has shown time and again that he believes in second chances and he believes he can provide the environment to foster change. And he wants to win football games. As fans, we just want to have some fun and watch football games. Football is a violent sport, and it seems that violence often spills off the field and into real life. Remember, this was not Hunt’s first allegation of physical violence. I’m just not equipped to know how to rationalize any of this.

I hope the Browns are serious about monitoring Hunt’s progress and I hope Hunt is truly remorseful. I hope he’s eager and willing to make the necessary changes in his life to be less violent toward others. There can still be a positive outcome in this. The question will always be, though, does the end justify the means? That’s for everyone to decide for themselves, I guess.