Television ratings are up. Presidential tweets are down – or non-existent of late. The focus on player protests has moved to community outreach and service. Gambling is legal and increasing engagement. The expansion to Los Angeles has yielded a Super Bowl contender.
Young stars are everywhere. Old stars too. The games are exciting. Even the Cowboys might be good.
The NFL was experiencing a dream season of success piled upon success, an oasis after wandering through the wilderness of the past few overwrought seasons.
And now here comes its old foil – an inability to handle charges of domestic violence.
In the course of a couple of bumbling days, Washington claimed Reuben Foster after he was released from San Francisco following a domestic violence arrest. Washington appeared to do only a cursory (if any) investigation and then defended the move by having senior vice president Doug Williams note that plenty of other people “have done far worse.” He later apologized for the comment.
Then on Friday afternoon, TMZ released a grainy security video of an altercation between a player and a woman. This time it was Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt pushing and kicking a woman in the hallway of a Cleveland hotel where he lived last offseason.
Police were called but no charges were filed. The incident wasn’t a secret. Neither was another from the offseason, when Hunt was accused of punching a man.
Hunt was sent home from the practice facility Friday after the video surfaced, according to ESPN, and Friday evening the Chiefs took a dramatic step and released their star running back.
“As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact.”
However, when asked about the off-field issues last summer, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt made excuses.
“Kareem is a young man, second year in the league, obviously had a very big year on the field last year,” Hunt said. “I’m sure he learned some lessons this offseason and hopefully won’t be in those kind of situations in the future.”
There are times when you wonder if NFL owners and executives have a contest going for most absurd comment.
Kareem Hunt is 23 now, old enough to know not to hit women. It’s a very simple lesson. He wasn’t being attacked. He was the aggressor. How big a year he had on the field is irrelevant. Hunt projecting that maybe he learned a lesson is nothing but empty hope.
Is it possible that neither the Chiefs nor the NFL could have gotten the video? Or were they just hoping it wouldn’t get out?
Hint: it always gets out.
If prosecutors had it, then the NFL should explain why it couldn’t. Or did it just not try?
Dealing with these scandals are not solely about commissioner Roger Goodell putting on his sheriff’s hat and handing out discipline … eventually. It’s about the transparency that will build the trust that the league cares about this issue, and not just when video is splashed across national television and it turns into a public relations issue.
The league can say what it wants and wear pink as much as it can, but the underlying attitudes of the NFL are clear.
It’s Washington justifying it by noting someone, somewhere, had done worse. Well, sure. Aaron Hernandez either killed three people or, at very least, was present when they were murdered. But others have done far worse, you know.
“I apologize to the organization, my wife, my mom, my sisters and the six daughters that I have,” Williams said. “Never in my life could I have stated anything so insensitive as I said. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses because there is no excuse.”
There is none except that’s the underlying belief in the league. How far can we push this? How lenient can we be? Hey, he had a very big year on the field last year, you know.
The Chiefs’ skill players included Hunt and Tyreek Hill, who pleaded guilty in college to choking his pregnant girlfriend. They drafted him anyway. Hopefully he learned a lesson, or something.
The fact the situation unfolded as it did is troubling. This is Ray Rice 2.0, inaction spinning into scandal once the visual comes out. It was avoidable, a self-inflicted wound in a season going so well.
It’s not a surprise that legal issues or charges of domestic violence arise with football players. Sadly, they arise in every company in this country, in every walk of life. It’s a surprise that the NFL still struggles to get out in front of it, handle it, investigate it and present itself as competent when it occurs.
Or maybe it isn’t a surprise anymore.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Jason Garrett may have saved his job with Cowboys
• TMZ video shows Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt striking woman
• Cubs sticking with Addison Russell despite domestic violence suspension
• Reasons why Jeff Brohm changed his mind and is staying at Purdue