Rookie Scouting Portfolio creator Matt Waldman shares his thoughts on the Cleveland Brown’s signing of Kareem Hunt.
I want our society to handle domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse with nuance and care for both the victims and the perpetrators. This includes stricter laws, more severe punishments when needed, and better rehabilitation efforts — including a more open society that as a whole will support those opportunities for convicted offenders when they eventually work their way through an enhanced justice system.
Easy for me to say — I’m a football analyst with no commitment to any of these issues. Easy for most of you to say based on your jobs and similar lack of commitment.
Still, I’ve been financially committed to preventing and properly addressing the issue of sexual abuse of children since 2012 — an issue that, when part of a damaging cocktail of other abusive behaviors and genetics, can predispose victims to damaging and abusive behaviors on themselves, others, and society at large.
If I have to prioritize my time and money, I’d prefer to focus on issues that are closest to the root of our societal problems.
It’s why I have no problem with the Cleveland Browns signing Kareem Hunt — from any angle. Here are my thoughts on each…
Before we argue about any individual cases, the NFL and NFLPA need to agree to a sensible code of conduct that addresses arrests, charges, convictions, and punishments. A code that will lessen any potential for a lawsuit because it will reduce any ham-handed punishments doled out as a reactionary measure to soothe public opinion.
The NFL is an employer and not a society on its own. The more it attempts to become its own society, the more problems it creates.
I’ve seen my share of writers railing about the NFL whenever a team signs a player like Hunt. The intent is well-placed. Everyone with the right sensibilities is against domestic violence. However, the NFL is low-hanging fruit to attack that earns these writers brownie points with the public for taking a stance.
I don’t think it’s intentional but the unintended positive consequences for appearing woke probably influences more of these stances. However, I bet 90 percent of the football content providers (who aren’t freelancers) have no idea who in their company has been arrested, charged, or convicted of domestic violence, drug, or alcohol-related crimes. I bet 95 percent of them don’t know their company’s policy for handling it.
And if you do, you probably just looked it up.
Many companies lack policies on these issues. Those that do vary according to arrest, severity of charge (misdemeanor or felony), and/or conviction.
The fact that a significant component of our nation’s workplace isn’t even held to a decent standard on this issue should be the first thing we address. Arguing that the NFL should be held to a higher standard because they have more publicly visible employees is probably something many of you support.
I don’t. We should all be held to a higher standard.
Until we do, the NFL should tell the public that if they want things to change, they need to change the laws. It’s on us, not them. If we lean on them, they will never handle it the right way — it’s not in their self-interest.
Look at Michael Vick. He brutalized and killed animals. This behavior is often a marker for a psychologically broken individual. The FBI has determined that animal cruelty in children is a significant marker for eventual serial violence in adults.
Vick served months — not years — for his behavior and earned a starting quarterback spot in Philadelphia. We can blame the NFL but we often lament that convicted felons who’ve served their time don’t get a fair shot at careers once out of prison — until we’re faced with hiring them and then mostly don’t.
It’s easier to root for pretend convicted felons in dramas or reality show characters from our TV screen than it is to actually commit to them in real life.
Vick served his time and there was a high demand for his expertise. There are white-collar criminals whose deeds robbed families of their homes and hamstrung these families means to provide for their children now and in the future. They served softcore time in prison and returned to the world where the came — and the money-earning opportunities that accompany it.
Vick the killer of animals and the white-collar ruiner of countless families both served their time and were in demand. Want to stop it? Focus on the justice system.
Hunt gets to work if there’s demand for him. We may not like him for what we did. However, he has a right to due process. Maybe in the next collective bargaining agreement players, the union, and the league will eventually figure out a system that changes how this is handled.
Look beyond the PR ploys of the NFL. They will continue to behave in ways that draw criticism because they’re more concerned with the optics of the demand they have for talent. Want to fix it? Address the root societal issues that will change how every employer handles these behaviors.
If addressed better, the dissonance between optics and demand will not be as prevalent.
I just hope it can be done with some sophistication when it comes to punishment and rehabilitation. That second part of the equation is as important as the first.
For more conversation, I suggest listening to my podcast with Daniel Simpkins. It’s a nuanced conversation with a therapist who has worked with clients who’ve committed these types of crimes and served their time.
The Browns made a good call. John Dorsey has a history with Hunt and working with players who’ve been guilty of domestic violence. He knows enough about Hunt that he deemed it worthwhile to give Hunt a one-year deal that will make Hunt a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
The deal allows Cleveland to renegotiate and have rights of first refusal. For another organization to sign Hunt, it will have to forfeit compensation in the form of draft picks.
The primary benefit of signing Hunt is “options.”
Cleveland has Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson locked up so a cheap deal for Hunt provides Cleveland a starter talent who can help the offense later in the year — after a suspension — as either a fresh body who can serve as a change of pace or as the starter if the Browns suffer injuries to the depth chart. After all, running back is among the most punishing positions to play in sport.
If Chubb gets hurt, Hunt can provide redundancy at the position that few teams possess. If it’s a catastrophic injury, Cleveland will know enough about Hunt to get the first crack at re-signing him.
It’s a win-win situation.
Remember, this signing is about strengthening Cleveland’s options more than it is a statement about Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson. The Chiefs had a good offensive line (and when it didn’t, Hunt faltered); Chubb’s line has been decent, at best, and still needs upgrades.
Hunt’s name value will cause the public to confuse talent and notoriety. Hunt is talented and has a longer track record of NFL production. Chubb is talented with a shorter track record. People will place more weighted value on the track record and believe they’re making an accurate assessment about their overall talent.
Based on the criteria that I use to study running backs — criteria that are independent of the player’s surrounding talent — Chubb is the more talented back. The difference isn’t great enough that the Browns would stick with an injured Chubb ahead of a healthy Hunt.
After what we saw this year from Chubb, it’s not a slam dunk that Cleveland would try to give Hunt a passing-down role, either — especially when Hunt’s pass protection is still a work in progress and Chubb proved a worthwhile receiver.
Additionally, most of this is speculation that may not be an issue at all next year.
Hunt will likely earn a suspension for not only the acts caught on video but also lying about it. I bet these circumstances will lead to him missing 6-10 games — again separate your sense of justice from whatever ham-handed, optics-induced behavior the NFL will commit.
Hunt is a talented redundancy plan at a bargain price that will yield future draft picks if Chubb and Johnson remain healthy or will land them shot to re-sign a young Pro-Bowl back if one of its current starting rotation suffers a career-threatening injury.
If you encounter league mates selling Chubb’s football rights cheap, jump on it.
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