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By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
This past week has offered more sobering examples of the NFL’s uneasy connections to domestic abuse and general abuse towards women.
In the separate, but comparable stories regarding linebacker Rueben Foster and running back Kareem Hunt, both players have evidence damning them of despicable acts but both are existing in a momentary stasis where a future playing in the league seems assured for both men after a certain allowable time passes by.
The Sunday before last the former San Francisco 49er Foster was waived after being arrested at their team hotel for domestic violence charges. Three days later, Foster received another employment opportunity, being claimed off waivers by Washington.
As the week progressed, Hunt became a new subject of brutal force as video surfaced via TMZ of the Kansas City Chief in a confrontation with a woman in a Cleveland hotel from back in February, an incident that included Hunt kicking the woman. Hunt, a main contributor to the AFC-leading Chiefs this season, would be released from Kansas City within 24 hours of the video’s release.
In the case of Hunt we’ve gotten a rare swift judgement against the negative actions of a player, though it can be argued that said judgement is coming in the face of embarrassment the Chiefs organization is trying to modulate instead of it reacting to the act of violence itself. It has been reported in the wake of Hunt’s release that members of the Chiefs organization knew of the incident and the tape from not long after the incident happened.
Of course, such reporting underscores the belief that if a talent is established enough in the league than beating women is only a speed bump for that person to endure — they may lose a job temporarily, as in Foster’s case, but at the quickest sign of any legal leeway at least one other NFL team will be glad to have a latent criminal on their roster should that criminal make them better suited to make the playoffs.
Washington unfortunately trotted out one of its most beloved former players and current senior vice president of player personnel, Doug Williams, in an embarrassing statement that tried to limit their public acceptance of Foster to a general sense of legal technicality.
“The Redskins fully understand the severity of the recent allegations made against Reuben,” said Williams in a team statement this past week. “If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone.”
Few, if any, sober minded observers of the NFL are allowing themselves to be taken in by the propaganda issued in forms such as the Washington statement or a safe interview conducted by ESPN for Hunt’s sake. In this league it is much more acceptable to be a woman beater than a perceived social justice warrior. To speak and engage in representative protest can call for a banning of a player yet compiling a record of abuse or allowing oneself to get caught on video abusing a lady evokes more excuse-making than anything else.
According to a University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health study, African-Americans and Hispanics are two to three times more likely to report male-female and female-male partner violence as compared to whites. As a man, an African-American man at that, I was raised never to disrespect women by putting your hands on them, no matter the circumstance. Abuse shows that you cannot obtain one of the highest standard of respect, lack the capacity to control any situation and illustrates that the one of the only ways you can control a situation is if violence is involved.
Violence is never the answer a problem or dispute, yet we as black people cannot understand that, and apparently neither does the NFL.
Foster’s arrest was his third time in two years, with two of those arrests for similar domestic violence instances.Yes, these are current allegations that are not proven yet, however, the fact that he is under investigation for domestic disputes that involved violence and this most recent incident is the second time in a two-year span should cause for concern, but the league’s actions have shown that it isn’t, and that is not right.
In response to Ray Rice abusing his then-fiance, the NFL set an acceptable precedent of zero-tolerance acceptance regarding domestic violence among its players, but it has woefully come up short of that standard in the time since.
A New Jersey judge would dismiss charges filed against Rice but the former Baltimore Raven still hasn’t returned to an NFL field, he seems to be an outlier among several high profile abusers who have gotten second chances: Greg Hardy is no longer in the league but after being released by the Panthers for his domestic violence case he was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys.
Current Washington running back Adrian Peterson was released by the Vikings in the wake of reports of his abuse towards women and children, but he avoided jail time, played for the Cardinals during that period and has survived a couple more stops in the league.
Hunt doesn’t have a home in the league as of now and should he get another one he’d likely have to serve an extended suspension before playing, but the odds of the explosive back having a place on another roster may sit better than odds seeing his former team make a Super Bowl run in the wake of this newly risen controversy.
Kaepernick, a man with a clean arrest record, has been unemployed for two years now due to his peaceful protest in shedding light on the injustices minorities experience in many American institutions. Instead of listening to his message he’s been discredited at every turn, he’s received no direct support from the NFL as his narrative has been distorted and used to create a divide across the league between players and owners and fans.
Kaepernick’s non-violent exercising of his rights was apparently enough for him to be excised from an environment where he had proven himself to be exemplary and worthy of continued employment whereas actual off-field violence is being unchecked even though it cuts to the heart of much of our larger society’s issues with NFL players and many of their inability to control themselves physically with women.
The idea of some bizarro Kaepernick, a socially imbalanced and unconscious woman-beater, being more in line with what the NFL would want in an active member is a shameful comment on the league as a whole and one that the NFL should make every effort to shake itself away from.
Instead it allows its teams to take more incentive in trying to rationalize actions that everyone in society deems as unacceptable.The league is showing its true colors by giving abusers second chances and arrogantly doesn’t care how it looks in comparison to its treatment of a man who’s been held up by many in society as a modern hero.
Kaepernick deserves better, and I hate that the league where he once seemed at home would go through such drastic measures to eliminate him from its protection and damn him and what he stands for by accepting players opposite of his character. Really, the NFL is just damning itself.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR