It might be a stretch to say that the Reuben Foster story begat the Kareem Hunt story. Then again, it might not.
The theory would be this: Perhaps the Foster story and its uproars in the Bay Area and the Beltway could have caused someone in Cleveland to remember the Hunt video, in which he is caught in a hotel hallway at The Metropolitan beating and kicking a woman who might have used the time-honored racial slur to one of Hunt’s friends. TMZ obtained said video plus police bodycam videos, which originally had been reported by Cleveland.com back in February, but the videos were released Friday.
Either way, the Kansas City Chiefs, for whom Hunt had been doing exemplary work as a running back, immediately sent him home from their facility and then released him the same way the 49ers released Reuben Foster five days earlier.
You might now forgive the NFL for the sigh of relief. Let the team that signs Hunt on Saturday afternoon take the grief.
The swift turn of events suggests the teams now have, if not a policy but a suggested line of attack in such situations -- do nothing until forced, and then deal with it so the league doesn’t have to. Only in the Foster case, the league has to because those nimrods in Washington couldn’t wait to sign him.
Hunt’s release still is just a release, so the league likely will press for him to stay out of the football universe. And just as likely, some other team will decide the league is talking out its ear, because Hunt can run just as well as he clocks people in hallways.
And the reaction to Hunt’s release will be the same as Foster’s. Some will see this is a daft football decision. Some will see it as a belated reaction to an outrage.
And then there’s the other reaction, which is this: “Everything’s good until TMZ gets hold of it.” Or as we like to call it, “The presumption of innocence until you show us the video.”
That was the case here: Cleveland.com had the original story, and TMZ had the 9-1-1 call in June. But the video was the thing that called the Chiefs to action, a proportionately sluggardly response to the number of Foster-related legal violations before the 49ers cut him for (weirdly) betraying the team’s trust.
And here is where the league and its constituent members keep getting it wrong. Their unofficial official policy remains “We see nothing until you shove the evidence under our noses by showing it to the world,” which a great way to seem both callous and feckless at the same time.
Of course, it is difficult to know how they can get it right, barring a zero tolerance policy that might in fact make it worse on the women, whose welfare the league otherwise is not interested in protecting. It needs the player to do the work, and will protect said player (if he is important enough) until someone finally displays the public-relations problem the industry cannot evade.
And that is where we are in the Hunt case. He has not been charged, jailed or tried, but he's clearly involved, based on the video. Yet the Chiefs, who claimed not to know of the existence of the video until Friday, didn’t bother to worry about the incident until the lawyers had to be called.
Thus, the question is re-asked yet again: What ought the teams and the league to be doing? Should they be above and beyond the law, follow the process and wait for the evidence to kick down their doors? Suspend with pay? Suspend without pay? Fire without pay?
Or do they do the thing they really want to do -- tell the police there’s nothing to see, tell the media they never heard of such a thing, exonerate Hunt on the spot while dealing separately with the woman or women in question, and have Hunt ready for Sunday’s game in Oakland?
There must be a coherent policy in there somewhere, even though no policy is completely clean and successfully addresses the team’s needs, the players’ needs. And if necessary and unavoidable, the victims’ needs.
The Chiefs’ problem-solving went in the predictable order -- us, him, her -- and Hunt now is someone else’s issue.
[RELATED: 49ers cut Foster after repeated arrests left them no choice]
And it just might work out that way; talent/tolerance is as inviolable in its way as the sanctity of the confessional. Surely by now there are thousands of Chiefs fans trying to rationalize Hunt’s role and savage the team for ruining their Super Bowl hopes. That’s still going on here and in Washington re: Foster, though not at Super Bowl levels. Hell, it still might be going on in Baltimore about Ray Rice, and that’s been five years now.
But we can safely assume one thing: The league and team policies of putting their hands over their ears and singing while slamming their eyelids shut forcibly will be adhered to with conviction, until there is one.
Before that, well, there are yards to be gained and points to be scored. They’ll deal with it when they have to deal with it, and when they do, it will key on three words.
Plausible team deniability, with a “Why, I’m shocked to discover this thing I’ve known about for 10 months” on the side. And the first of those three words is very much optional.