The NFL has never really gotten a good handle on the discipline side of the personal conduct policy. Whether it be the Ray Rice case, their handling of Kicker Josh Brown's domestic violence allegation, or close to home with the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to prove inconsistent when it comes to off the field issues for its players. Tyreek Hill is the latest example.
Nate Taylor of The Athletic is reporting that the Kansas City Chiefs believe Tyreek Hill will get no more than a four-game suspension. Tyreek Hill is under investigation stemming from an incident that left his child with a broken arm. Though the district attorney's office stated that they would not file charges against Hill, audio was released between Hill and his fiancé that was pretty disturbing.
Now, there is a report that the investigators determined that the cause of injury was accidental, and that is certainly plausible. Accidents happen all the time. However, as a medical professional of more than 14 years, I've learned that in cases of domestic violence as well as child abuse, it's very difficult to determine what's assault and what's an accident. This is why domestic violence and child abuse is so difficult to prove because the evidence can point in opposite directions. Without eyewitness testimony, and three-year-olds aren't reliable sources of information (I know, I have a three-year-old), it's easy to see why the criminal justice system declined to pursue the matter further.
The report above indicates that neither Hill or his fiance currently has custody of their child. Investigators found welts on their son's body and the two admitted that they've spanked and used a belt to discipline their son, though investigators can't determine who is responsible for the welts.
From the above report:
“The investigation into Hill and Espinal began weeks after the broken bone was first treated, when Espinal, according to sources, asked a third party to call authorities and tell them that Hill was responsible for the boy’s injury. Espinal has admitted she was trying to shame Hill because in her mind, he had become too controlling and abusive again in their long and stormy relationship.
Hill and Espinal are currently separated and neither has custody of the boy at this time.
The investigation into the couple’s parenting accelerated when Overland Park police checked on the boy in March and found bruises and welts on his body. Both Hill and Espinal have admitted to investigators that they spanked the 3 year old with their hands and a belt, but prosecutors can’t determine for sure which parent, or if both, went too far.
In April Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe held a press conference to announce criminal charges wouldn’t be brought against Hill or Espinal but stated he believed a crime was committed against the boy and it was believed the crime was about the broken arm. It was not. Howe’s team has halted working on the case as they still can’t bring charges for bruising and harming the boy.”
Kevin Keitzman – WHB Sports Radio 810
Tyreek Hill has a history of violence against his then-girlfriend when he punched her in the stomach while she was pregnant then choked her. In that instance, Hill pled guilty. Now there’s the audio that alludes to Hill breaking his son’s arm. In that same audio, Hill is overheard threatening his fiancé as well. And the NFL only wants to suspend him for four games?
If you'll recall from 2014, Adrian Peterson was suspended for the entirety of that season without pay after pleading no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault in relation to the excessive discipline of his then four-year-old child.
As we've learned from the way the NFL works, they don't need the justice system to prove someone is guilty to take action against one of its players. While Hill's fiance has gone back on her story, which is a common thing for victims of abuse to do, the NFL doesn't need proof to come to a decision on Tyreek Hill. We've seen that the allegation is proof enough. Hill's history, the murkiness of the allegation, and the audio all paint a troubling picture.
Ezekiel Elliott received a six-game suspension from the NFL for allegations of assault during his college days. The NFL's lead investigator at the time recommended no suspension for Elliott, but the league suspended him six games anyway. Text messages from Elliott’s accuser indicated that she may have fabricated the accusation against Elliott and the league gave him a six-game suspension anyway.
As we've also seen, you can't rely on the NFL to be consistent when it comes to matters of discipline.
The NFL continues to be a very poor and inconsistent disciplinarian when it comes to player conduct. The national narrative on marijuana as an alternative therapy for pain and mental wellness is changing and yet, the league continues to keep Randy Gregory, Josh Gordon, and Martavis Bryant in the drug treatment program and indefinitely suspended. Obviously, those suspensions could still be lifted, but those players have lost years of their career for an offense that doesn’t even compare to what Hill is accused of, with audio to support the notion.
If you recall, Tom Brady got four games for his alleged role in the “deflate-gate” saga. In the eyes of the NFL, “deflate-gate” and Tyreek Hill’s alleged offenses are of similar magnitude.
It’s time for the NFL to get a better handle on the way they go about disciplining players, or maybe don’t discipline them at all. This will be one of the talking points when the league and the player’s union come together for the next round of collective bargaining. There needs to be a better way forward because having one guy sitting at the top making all the decisions isn’t working.
Roger Goodell and the NFL, to what should be the surprise of no one, are failing again to have a clue when it comes to player discipline. Assault and abuse are very difficult to prove. It's why you’ll see a suspension for Hill despite no action from the criminal justice system.
If the NFL truly believes that Hill didn't do anything wrong, then he doesn't deserve a suspension. However, if they believe he's responsible for something, they can't give him anything less than six games.
This piece was edited to reflect further information that was missing from the original story and to provide additional context for the author's perspective.