Conflicted feelings on Cleveland signing RB Kareem Hunt

Kate Arhar
Kate Arhar Senior Sports Editor

By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8

During a season in which the Kansas City Chiefs had great expectations of going to the Super Bowl, a video surfaced to show star running back Kareem Hunt in an altercation with a woman at a hotel in Cleveland last Spring. In the video, he is seen hitting and kicking her. The backlash from this incident caused the NFL to suspend him indefinitely and the Chiefs to release him.

Yesterday, Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey announced that they had signed Hunt. Frankly, my reactions have varied since I heard this news. I needed time to gather my thoughts, rein in my emotions, and sleep on it before I could put words down on paper.

Today, my thoughts are clearer, but no less conflicted. Hunt’s behavior in that Cleveland hotel is completely unacceptable. Everyone should be able to have a second chance to make up for their past, but WHY oh WHY does it have to be the Browns that give him that chance?

In releasing Hunt, the Chiefs told the NFL – and it’s fans – that violence against women was unacceptable. While I applaud that sentiment, at the time I wondered if there was more to the story. It seemed a harsh penalty for someone who had been on their team for two years, for someone they should have known very well on a personal level.

If anyone was going to give Hunt the opportunity to redeem himself, wouldn’t it be the Chiefs? Stand by their teammate, get him counseling, a press conference with a public apology, then let some time pass and he could come back. And yet they released him. In a business that is all about winning, on a team with Super Bowl aspirations, they released him. What other things played into that decision? It makes me wonder.

Dorsey has a history with Hunt – he was the football mind that drafted him for the Chiefs. He knows him personally and knows his talent. In the press conference, he said: “trust has to be earned.” I also know that trust can be lost, and that is the risk Dorsey just took with this signing.

Up until this point, Browns fans have been beyond thrilled with the changes Dorsey has made in just one year with the organization. He has earned a lot of trust with the fans when the drafting of quarterback Baker Mayfield proved to be exactly what this franchise needed. “In Dorsey, We Trust” is now the mantra in Cleveland. But this move may change all of that.

Dorsey was clear that there would be a zero tolerance policy for Hunt going forward, and I tend to believe him. Look at how long they put up with wide receiver Josh Gordon‘s issues, time and time again forgiving and standing by him until Dorsey arrived on scene and put that to a stop.

So we come to my biggest question: WHY?

I believe that Kareem Hunt should get a second chance and an opportunity for atonement. He should get the chance to show other men that there are better ways to handle difficult situations than to resort to violence. He should be able to change his behavior, learn from those mistakes, and move forward with his career. I just wish it wasn’t in Cleveland.

From a football standpoint, his talent on the field is unquestionable. He will make any team that he plays for better. But with all the positions of need on this team, do they really need Hunt? When the Browns have rookie sensation Nick Chubb along with Duke Johnson, Jr., in the backfield, do they really need Hunt? With Baker Mayfield under center throwing laser strikes down the field, do they really need Hunt?

With the history of being the joke of the NFL for nearly 20 years, with people referring to stupid or boneheaded moves as being “a Browns thing do to,” with a team that went 0-16 in 2017 finally turning the corner and gaining some respect across the league, do they really need Hunt? Is the PR hit worth the possibility that Hunt could contribute on the field when/if he’s actually cleared to play by the NFL?

I don’t know if the “juice” is worth the “squeeze.” I don’t know if the PR hit that the team is taking now is worth any amount of wins or touchdowns that Hunt will bring. Because you can’t change a franchise and fan base mentality of losing by talking about “Men of Quality” and then take this kind of risk. The Patriots could. The Steelers could. There are plenty of other teams who have enough “cache” in their fan’s emotional banks that could take this PR hit. It’s just too soon for the Browns to do this.

I talked with my husband, my daughters – who range in age from 26 to 31 – and countless friends last night. The reactions outside my family ranged from complete outrage to “if we can win games, who cares?” That didn’t surprise me. What surprised me the most was one of my daughters saying “well, at least he’s not playing for Pittsburgh, Baltimore or Cincinnati.” Yeah, she has a way of lightening my mood!

My husband laughingly postulated that perhaps by signing Hunt, “taking the sting out of it” for another team, Dorsey ensured he wouldn’t play for another team in our division and may even be contemplating trading him to Kansas City or some other team once his troubles are over, thus taking the PR hit for a long-range plan. If Dorsey is indeed that far-sighted, then, wow…

My daughters are far more realistic and see the NFL more clearly than I do. They all agree that the NFL plays lip service to caring about women and women’s issues, but it’s really just about money and winning. From their standpoint, this is a societal problem that affects people in all walks of life, in all professions.

Until, as a society, we make it clear that violence against women isn’t ok, this will continue. I can’t tell you how painful it is, as a mother, to know that my daughters are resigned to the fact that they live in a world where some people think it’s ok to hit a woman. Oh, THEY will not tolerate a man who puts his hands on them, but they seem to understand that it just is what it is and it’s not going to change. That breaks my heart.

At the end of the day, I’m a Browns fan. The “Whole” is more important than the “One.” Yes, I’ll still buy merchandise and watch games. Yes, I’ll still support this team. And maybe that makes me part of the problem?

While I wish Kareem Hunt only the best, while I hope he is truly repentant about his actions, while I pray that he is able to change his ways, my priority is the Browns Organization. Will signing him hurt the team? Because regardless of how the Hunt story turns out, the Browns will have to live with being the team that gave him that second chance. Hopefully, it turns out to be yet another genius move by Dorsey and not just another in the long list of “Browns thing to do.”

 

Talk football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8 

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