Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs’ 5th round pick in this year’s draft, had a huge game on Sunday and has emerged as the biggest playmaker for Kansas City on special teams and on offense with Jeremy Maclin out injured. He returned a punt for a touchdown, giving a high-five before he got to the end zone to DeAnthony Thomas. He also caught the touchdown on the goal line with 15 seconds remaining, that helped send the game to overtime.
That moment, where he celebrated with an early high-five before the end zone, is now captured and promoted at the top of the NFL’s official Twitter account.
Setting aside the ridiculousness of the NFL on the one hand repeatedly penalizing players for having fun on the field, while putting this picture up, there’s another reason this symbolic move is troubling. The reason that Tyreek Hill fell to the fifth round, below where his talent level would have suggested, is because of his history of domestic violence, which resulted in him getting kicked off the Oklahoma State football team. The NBC broadcast crew discussed this immediately after Hill’s punt return touchdown.
The Chiefs drew criticism immediately after taking Hill in the draft, because of that history which included punching a pregnant girlfriend in the stomach and choking her two years ago.
“I know that I would never put this community in any type of situation where it would not be good, and we’ve done that,” Chiefs general manager Dorsey said immediately after the pick. “I would like to ask for you guys to just have a little bit of trust in us in this thing.”
I think teams are free to sign players and balance the public relations hits and talent questions. Last year, after Ray McDonald was released by the Bears after another incident, after having already been cut by the 49ers, I said that I didn’t think team penalties were a reasonable solution. Teams can decide what they want, and it’s a slippery slope to punish potential second chances.
That said, there is a difference between giving someone a second chance, and promoting that person on the league’s account. There is a large chasm between those two things, and just because Tyreek Hill scored some touchdowns, he’s now on the “cover,” so to speak, in this modern social media world.
Hill’s domestic assault, to which he reached a plea agreement and is currently serving three years’ probation, happened the same year as Greg Hardy. Let that sink in. Hardy is now a pariah, after getting a chance last year with Dallas. Hill is getting his second chance, and neither you nor I know if that will ultimately prove merited or not.
But for all those who want to extend it, how about we not promote him for a few touchdowns, and see if he earns that over the course of time? To put someone with his history out front so quickly because of a few plays, for a league that pays lip service to domestic assault issues, is tone deaf. There were lots of great performances on Sunday, and not all of them have so many question marks and concerns.