The outcry was sparked by a December 2014 incident in which Hill choked and punched his eight-weeks pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach. This was after Hill threw her cell phone and laptop out of his room and then proceeded to lock her out in the hallway. After the victim elected to press charges, Hill plead guilty and is currently in the midst of a three-year probation period. His record will be wiped clean of the incident if he completes probation without another incident. According to The Oklahoman, Hill apologized for his actions in the courtroom.
“I did something I shouldn’t have done,” Hill told Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler. “I let my feelings take control of me.”
Hill was kicked off the Oklahoma State football and track teams after the incident and resulting court case made national headlines. He moved on to play at West Alabama, a Division II squad, for the 2015 season, with his speed and ability as a return specialist still catching the eyes of league scouts.
But athletic ability, the possibility of a clean slate and a new college team do not equate to a wiped memory or forgiveness.
The incident and the Chiefs’s decision to select him in the fifth round of the draft carries with it concern about the seriousness with which the NFL has approached the issue of employing known domestic abusers. A quick look at Kansas City’s announcement tweet puts on display the divisiveness the selection.
Greg Hardy and Ray Rice, two of the league’s most recent high-profile domestic abusers, are both currently without a team due to their role in violent altercations with women — for some, this signals a step in the right direction.
But not everyone falls into this line of thinking. Others, from online commenters to the Chiefs front office, have offered support to Hill, and regardless of public opinion he’s been granted the opportunity to play in the NFL. In speaking with ESPN’s Adam Teicher, Kansas City scout Ryne Nutt said that the that the team did its due diligence in researching the incident and determining Hill’s character.
“We’ve done the research on it,” Nutt said. “From that, I think, [General Manager John Dorsey] was comfortable enough to take the kid.
“I’ve talked with the Oklahoma [State] staff and I’ve talked with the West Alabama staff. They all like the kid. He made a mistake. I’m not going to go into the details of it but the human being is somebody they like. You talk to the kid and he’s probably more than sorry it happened. But he’s a good person. He means well.”
Dorsey and Coach Andy Reid spoke with the media Saturday to discuss the draft and address the selection. According to the Kansas City Star’s Tod Plamer, both men were adamant about being convinced of Hill’s desire to right the situation, with Reid citing his experience with Michael Vick as an example of a player with serious issues making a change.
As is the case with many late-round draft picks, Hill’s spot on the team and in the league is not yet set in stone. But as NFL teams look for hidden gems in questionable characters during the final day of the draft — like the Eagles with their selection of Wendall Smallwood — it is apparent rather than select a player with an incident-free past, franchises are willing to provide second chances to those that they feel best serve the team’s needs. While the logic may work for some, for others, as evidenced by the response of the fans and casual observers, the issue of how teams handle these red-flag players is still far from being one with an answer all sides can agree on.
Correction: A previous version of this post said Hill was drafted in the sixth round.