The Kansas City Chiefs released star running back Kareem Hunt on Friday night, hours after Hunt was seen pushing and kicking a woman in video of a previously reported February incident in a Cleveland hotel. The video of the incident was released earlier Friday by TMZ.
The Chiefs’ move to cut ties with Hunt came after the NFL placed him on paid administrative leave via the commissioner’s exempt list. So even if another NFL team adds Hunt to its roster, he would not be immediately eligible to play. The use of the list is designed to last until the NFL makes a decision about a possible suspension, which would be without pay, under the personal conduct policy.
“I want to apologize for my actions,” Hunt said in a written statement. "I deeply regret what I did. I hope to move on from this.”
The Chiefs said their decision to part ways with Hunt was based on him not being truthful in previous discussions with the team about the incident.
“Earlier this year, we were made aware of an incident involving running back Kareem Hunt,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “At that time, the National Football League and law enforcement initiated investigations into the issue. As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him. Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact. We are releasing Kareem immediately.”
The league made its announcement without suggesting a timetable for a potential suspension. The NFL said it had begun an investigation.
“The NFL's investigation, which began immediately following the incident in February, will include a review of the new information that was made public today,” the league’s written statement said.
The NFL said neither the league nor the Chiefs viewed the video of the incident before it became public Friday.
According to a person familiar with the NFL’s investigation, league officials made multiple attempts to obtain the video but were denied by the hotel, which indicated that corporate policy dictated that the footage would be made available only to law enforcement. NFL investigators attempted to speak to women involved in the incident but they did not respond to requests to be interviewed, according to that person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league did not announce details of its investigation.
The Chiefs reportedly had sent Hunt home earlier Friday from their training facility. They play Sunday in Oakland.
Hunt was the second NFL player to be placed on the commissioner’s list this week, days after the league put Washington Redskins linebacker Reuben Foster on paid leave Tuesday. Players on that list are paid their weekly salaries but are prohibited from participating in practices or attending games.
Hunt has three days to appeal being placed on the exempt list through the NFL Players Association. Any such appeal would be heard and resolved by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Hunt was not arrested or charged with a crime as a result of the February incident. Under the personal conduct policy, a player can be disciplined even if he is not convicted of a crime. The baseline suspension for a player involved in an incident of domestic violence is six games, under the terms of the policy. That can be shortened or lengthened depending on the circumstances of the case. Such a suspension is without pay.
The video shows Hunt and the woman exchanging words before Hunt shoves the woman and a man who is attempting to intervene. The woman appears to strike Hunt in the face, and the confrontation continues.Later, Hunt appears to kick the woman while she is in a crouching position.
Police reportedly were called to the scene but no arrests were made and no charges were filed. According to TMZ, surveillance video from the hotel — where Hunt reportedly maintained an apartment — was obtained by law enforcement and submitted to prosecutors.
The woman reportedly told police that the incident began when she refused to have sex with one of the men with Hunt. Those with Hunt reportedly told police that the woman had directed a racial epithet at Hunt when she was asked to leave.
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt (no relation) said in the summer that he didn’t expect the running back to be disciplined by the league over the incident. The player said before the season that he’d learned from that incident and another incident in which he was alleged to have punched a man.
Hunt has played in all 11 of the Chiefs’ games this season and is a standout for one of the league’s top teams. The second-year running back has rushed for 824 yards and seven touchdowns, helping the Chiefs to a record of 9-2. He is the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher and the Chiefs are in position to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
The release of the video comes with the NFL and its teams again under intense scrutiny for their handling of domestic violence issues. The Washington Redskins have been widely criticized for signing Foster following his arrest last weekend in Tampa on a domestic violence charge and his subsequent release by the San Francisco 49ers.
The league and Goodell were criticized harshly in late 2014 for their handling of cases involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy. Controversy over the Rice case intensified after video emerged showing him striking a woman, then his fiancee and now his wife, in a hotel elevator.