Tyreek Hill Has the Makings of a Star, but Also an Ugly Past None Should ForgetDecember 23, 2016
Tyreek Hill is one of the most electric young stars in all of sports. The Kansas City Chiefs receiver is helping a franchise go from staid and predictable to electric. He's imminently watchable, utterly fascinating and staggeringly game-changing.
And he is doing things we haven't seen in over 50 years. Hill and Gale Sayers, who played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1971, are the only two players in NFL history, the league says, to score at least two rushing touchdowns, at least two receiving touchdowns, a punt-return touchdown and a kick-return touchdown during their rookie seasons.
There are a lot of reasons to cheer for Hill if you choose to.
But it's also OK to never forget what happened on a Thursday night in December 2014.
That night, Hill's pregnant girlfriend says she was attacked by the then-Oklahoma State player. While domestic violence is always sinister, this case was particularly odious. Hill hit his girlfriend in the face and stomach, and she was eight weeks pregnant. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation.
The details of what happened are chilling and worth reading again. And as we watch Hill evolve into what will likely become one of the star players in the league, these details shouldn't be forgotten.
None of this means Hill didn't, and doesn't, deserve a second chance. Or a third. Nor does it mean the Chiefs can't draft him in the fifth round. He's allowed to earn a living, and his record will be expunged should he complete his probation without another incident.
But it also doesn't mean I have to forget what he did. No one should. But that's what is happening now. I won't mention names or news organizations, but too many of us in the media (and definitely too many Chiefs fans) are slobbering over what Hill is doing on the field and practically erasing from the record what he did that one awful night, like that day can be put in a time capsule and buried in the backyard.
Forgetting means the next case is normalized. Remembering means it's not.
Hill just earned a spot in the Pro Bowl, and he's being praised for making the most of his second chance. In November, coach Andy Reid said Hill "came here with the incident obviously. He's handled himself in a good way. There haven't been any issues ... He has things he has to do for the incident. He doesn't miss anything. He does everything he's supposed to do and that's a plus."
The Incident, Reid called it.
As if Hill had a fender bender. Or an accident with the lawnmower.
This is the problem with many domestic violence cases. They are still, in some instances, glossed over by leagues, media and fans. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon bashed a woman in the face. It was caught on video, and Mixon wasn't cut from the team. At a press conference this week, coach Bob Stoops basically portrayed his decision to not cut Mixon at the time as a function of how far we've progressed on the issue as a society. Now, he'd be cut, Stoops said.
I watched an ESPN college analyst say Stoops' act was one of trying to salvage a kid and not about keeping a highly talented player on the team.
Yeah. Sure, dude. Got it.
The climate now isn't that dramatically changed from two years ago. Ray Rice altered it somewhat, but Stoops could have easily cut Mixon then. It wasn't 1914. It was 2014. But Stoops kept him on for the same reason many coaches and organizations, all across sports, keep woman beaters and other bad guys: because they can help the team win.
"B. Stoops is full of bulljive," tweeted Shannon Sharpe, who continued:
Sharpe is right, of course.
It's odd some of this even needs to be stated, yet the number of people defending Hill, Mixon and another awful dude-of-the-week, Michael Floyd—accused of drunk driving—on my Twitter timeline, was flabbergasting. Some get more upset over players skipping bowl games than they do domestic violence. But this is why NFL teams get away with signing men to their roster who allegedly punch pregnant women in the stomach. Because some fans defend them no matter what they do.
This is why the rest of us who don't support woman beaters need to remember.
No team is immune from conveniently forgetting. Last week the New England Patriots signed Floyd for the same reason Stoops went gutless on Mixon—talent. Despite a highly troubling Dec. 12 arrest video and an alleged .217 blood alcohol content—nearly three times the legal limit—he's currently on an NFL roster.
The Patriots see him as a talent who can help them win games and will hold their nose and bring him to New England despite this being his second DUI arrest. Coach Bill Belichick, at a press conference Wednesday, said he was unaware of Floyd's blood-alcohol level at the time the team signed him.
Well, he's aware of it now.
I'm normally not a coulda-woulda-shoulda guy, but it's hard not to look at that video and wonder how close Floyd came to killing not just himself but possibly others. I'm told by people who live in the area that the intersection where Floyd fell asleep is a busy one.
What Hill did, or Mixon or Floyd, aren't small acts. They're not misdemeanors. They do not fall under the category of "we all make mistakes." Hill's act was ugly and gutless and beyond the norm of human decency.
Again, none of this is to say they shouldn't be allowed to play professional football. Nor am I trying to wag my finger at them.
Just don't forget.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL.