The NFL is too big to care, too big to give a crap, really.
That is how Tyreek Hill happens.
It is how a wide receiver physically abuses his girlfriend, later threatens the same woman he punched in the stomach while she was pregnant, gets suspended by his own team, but then the NFL declines to actually suspend him — not even for one game — after a supposedly “thorough” months-long investigation.
Evidently it takes more than hitting and threatening women to violate the league’s personal conduct policy. Commissioner Roger Goodell hollowly talks about the “privilege” of playing in the league, yet declines even a slap on the wrist for a player whose actions seem at odds with that privilege.
So the NFL’s precious shield gets dented and dirtied once more, first by Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs receiver, and then by Goodell, whose inaction tells us, “Move along. Nothing to see here.”
Preseason training camps have begun; the Dolphins’ first practice is Thursday. The lid is lifted on the league’s 100th season; it will end with Miami hosting the Super Bowl.
Football is back, and that’s enough. Goodell knows any temporary public outrage regarding no punishment for Hill will soon evaporate, drowned out by Chiefs fans’ cheers. The news cycle chugs on. Soon what Hill got away with will be forgotten as fantasy football players consider him as a possible first-round pick. Forgotten as gamblers pore over point spreads to place their bets..
Goodell counts on the mighty NFL being impervious to all controversy, and with good reason. Nothing hurts King Sport for long. Not Colin Kaepernick and his anthem-kneelers. Not a little dip in TV ratings. Not the fact more players are retiring young and more are growing old tragically because of brain trauma.
And not domestic abuse, either.
As far back as 2014, Hill pleaded guilty to physically abusing his girlfriend. The police report noted cuts on her face and neck, that she had been punched and thrown to the ground. He punched her in the stomach. She was eight weeks pregnant. He admitted in court at the time, “I did something I shouldn’t have done. I let my feelings take control of me.”
Much more recently the couple’s 3-year-old son sustained a broken arm. Hill has denied being responsible and was never charged. The boy is currently with neither parent and under the care of the Johnson County (Kansas) Department of Children and Families.
The investigation of possible child abuse included an audio tape on which the same girlfriend he abused in 2014, Crystal Espinol, is heard telling Hill the small boy is terrified of him. He responds, “You should be terrified of me, too, dumb [expletive].”
The threat heard on that tape was enough for the NFL to suspend Hill, based on previous league punishments — especially because the threat was made against a woman he already had admitting to battering.
That was enough the Chiefs to suspend him on April 26. The NFL in effect overturned that to say Hill is free and clear to play football again.
There is no consistency whatsoever to how or whether the NFL metes out punishment concerning the personal conduct policy, and therefore Goodell gives the impression of a man flying by the seat of his pants. It might be time for the NFL to take punishment power from Goodell and hand it to an independent panel of respected football and legal experts.
Five years ago, running back Ray Rice was suspended a mere two games for physical violence against a woman. Then a damning video showed up. He never played again.
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was suspended for the same type of verbal threats Hill was heard to make.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games for a sexual assault allegation that was never prosecuted.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott also was banned six games the domestic violence charge against him being dropped.
There is ample precedent for Goodell to have suspended Hill in a meaningful statement that a player can do nothing to quickly lose the “privilege” of wearing the uniform more than to violently disrespect women.
Instead the commissioner weakly did nothing, kicking more dirt on his own almighty shield.