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Sports Authority

Geyer: Browns setting bad example by picking up Hunt

| Tuesday, February 12, 2019

In an increasingly political and polarized world, sports are no longer just sports — they’re bigger than that. Athletes have delved into activism, using their positions of power and influence to hold the world to a higher moral standard. And sometimes it’s divisive — it’s no secret that everyone has their own opinion about Colin Kaepernick and his police brutality protests.

As the media has become more ubiquitous, both players and teams have had their platforms extended. Sports reach a wider audience than ever before, and people have more opportunity to make their voices heard amid the day-to-day humdrum. As such, athletes and their organizations don’t just have the opportunity to set an example — they have the obligation. And when they don’t fulfill this obligation, it can perpetrate erroneous social norms.

Case in point? Yesterday, the Cleveland Browns signed former Chiefs’ running back Kareem Hunt, who was released from Kansas City mid-season this past fall after footage of him being physically violent towards a 19-year-old woman surfaced. Charges were not pressed following the incident, but it is irrefutable that he was in the wrong. After signing with the Browns, Hunt issued a statement in which he acknowledged his wrongful behavior.

“I would like to once again apologize for my actions last February,” Hunt said. “What I did was wrong and inexcusable. That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact.”

The Browns defended their move with a statement released by John Dorsey, the organizations general manager.

“We fully understand and respect the complexity of questions and issues in signing a player with Kareem’s history and do not condone his actions … we believe he deserves a second chance.”

But regardless of his apology and regardless of Cleveland’s justification, the fact remains: Hunt physically harmed a woman, and in picking him up, the Browns are begetting a culture in which domestic abuse is swept under the rug and excused time and time again.

Athletic success should not come at the cost of moral standards. In another industry, it is unlikely Hunt would get a second chance — but his actions have been “forgiven” because he has proven himself an elite player, one who the Browns — a struggling franchise — think they cannot pass up. As a rookie in 2017, Hunt led the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Prior to being released by the Chiefs this year, Hunt gained 824 rushing yards and had 14 touchdowns, seven receiving and seven rushing.

Clearly, the Browns think he can play a big part in continuing to rebuild the franchise. The question is, at what cost? If all the young kids watching the NFL see their favorite teams excusing domestic abuse, what message does that send them, particularly in the current environment of sports activism?

As personal advocacy has increased over the years, the margin for moral error in professional leagues has decreased, and rightfully so. Athletes have been leading by example: LeBron James has branded himself as “more than an athlete”, Steph Curry has advocated for increased recognition and celebration of women in sports and Breanna Stewart has been a champion for survivors of sexual assault.

In a world where athletes are stepping up to act as better social examples, the Browns need to do better. The first step is not tolerating physical violence, past or present. And if Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job, maybe Kareem Hunt shouldn’t either.

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