As a father, an issue like the Cleveland Browns signing Kareem Hunt makes me think about the message I, and hopefully others, would have for my son
Yesterday was not a good day to be on social media. We live in a “hot take” culture and that made the Cleveland Browns signing of Kareem Hunt about the hottest take you could have. As a well-seasoned fan of 50, I hate hot takes. Mostly because they’re usually wrong but somehow they’re rarely retracted.
And so we have the issue of Kareem Hunt signing with the Cleveland Browns. There are facts about what happened in that Cleveland hotel. There are facts that may still come out about other incidents regarding Hunt going back as far as high school. But here are some other facts.
Kareem Hunt has not played a down for the Cleveland Browns.
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Kareem Hunt may never play a down for the Cleveland Browns.
We don’t know if he will and anyone who does, including John Dorsey, is lying.
I have a son and two daughters. The message I would share with my daughters would be personal and complicated. Personal because they’re about as different as two girls can be, and complicated because I’m a man. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an obligation to say something. I do. And it certainly doesn’t mean I feel disqualified to say something. I don’t. But it’s complicated. Because I can never know how they really feel.
But to my son, I have four words. Don’t be that guy. But what do I mean by that?
Kareem Hunt assaulted two people in that Cleveland hotel. One was male. One was female. In my mind, the assault of one is no different than the assault of the other. Yet somehow, I think that if he had assaulted two men we would feel differently. And if the next words out of your mouth are “defenseless” and “most vulnerable”, I don’t think our society is ready for that discussion. In fact, I know it’s not. What Kareem Hunt did was unacceptable. Period. We live in a society that chooses to give athletes a platform. We choose to elevate them to the status of role models. With that comes responsibility. There are things they cannot do.
But the thing is, the words “don’t be that guy” are just words unless there is somebody (and usually multiple “somebody’s”) to model what that looks like. I’m fortunate that my son has had male coaches and teachers that have reinforced what I try to say. I’m blessed to have other fathers who model a commitment to their spouses even as I try to, imperfectly at times, honor a spouse who chose to follow a different path.
And as always, it means more coming from them. But they’re still words I have to say. Just like “drive carefully” and “I love you”. Oh, and that last one is a tough one, because I would still say it even if he was that guy.
I’m hearing that if the NFL imposed a one-or two-year ban before Hunt could begin his career that would be more palatable. I get it. But there is no penalty that the league can impose that squares a circle.
The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) gives Hunt a path back to the league. We may not like it, but the path exists. That is one issue among many that may mean we will be without football for a while after the 2021 season. The NFLPA and the owners will seek to hammer out what “the right” penalty should be. Of course, they’ll never come up with a punishment that will be right. There wouldn’t be a fair punishment if the victims were one of my daughters. Nor would there be an adequate punishment if the perpetrator were my son.
So I’m left with the only words I can tell my son, and they would be the same words I hope more men will have the conviction to tell and model for Kareem Hunt. Don’t be that guy.