IRVING, Tex. — The NFL plans to make no immediate changes to its investigative procedures despite concerns by some owners over those methods arising from the case involving former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, according to several people familiar with the situation.
Owners are scheduled to meet at a Dallas-area hotel Wednesday. It’s not clear to what extent the cases of Hunt and Washington Redskins linebacker Reuben Foster will be addressed during the one-day meeting.
According to those people close to the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, the league intends to stand firm behind its investigatory methods, at least for the time being, and will attempt to address any concerns that might be raised by owners in the aftermath of the Hunt case.
It’s not clear if those owners eventually will be able to enact any changes. If there are to be eventual modifications, one person with knowledge of the owners’ thinking said, the best chance for that to happen could be during the upcoming set of labor negotiations between the league and the NFL Players Association.
If the NFLPA pushes for modifications to the sport’s system of player discipline and its investigative procedures as part of the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations, the league and the owners might be receptive to making such changes, that person said.
It is believed to be a growing but still relatively small number of owners who are concerned and, in some cases, upset about the league’s investigation of Hunt. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is said by people within the league to be part of that group of owners. Jones previously has been critical of the league’s system of player discipline and investigatory methods. His ire was aimed at last year’s six-game suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the personal conduct policy.
In the Hunt case, the NFL placed him on the commissioner’s exempt list and the Chiefs cut the standout running back after TMZ obtained and released video showing Hunt shoving and kicking a woman during a February incident at a Cleveland hotel. No criminal charges were filed.
The NFL had been investigating the case since February and was unable to obtain the video or to convince women involved in the incident to agree to be interviewed. NFL investigators did not interview Hunt regarding the February incident.
It was reminiscent of the 2014 case in which the league initially suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for only two games for an incident in which he struck his fiancee in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City. After TMZ released video of the incident, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens cut him. The indefinite suspension later was overturned on appeal, but Rice has not played in the league since then.
The owners and the league revised the personal conduct policy in 2014, toughening penalties for domestic violence incidents and empowering the NFL to conduct its own independent investigations of players accused of criminal misconduct. League officials cautioned from the outset, however, that their ability to investigate such cases was restricted by a lack of subpoena power and other limitations.
Even so, the league’s handling of the Hunt case has been criticized by media members and advocacy groups and has raised concerns among some owners. Those owners with concerns want to revisit the issue, consider possible changes and, if the league’s investigatory methods cannot be improved to their satisfaction, contemplate the idea of whether the NFL should conduct such investigations at all.
It’s not known if those owners would favor the league paying for surveillance video such as those released by TMZ in the Rice and Hunt cases. It has been reported that TMZ commonly pays to acquire such video. The league office appears adamantly opposed to paying to obtain video in player disciplinary cases.
Hunt and Foster are facing potential suspensions without pay by the NFL under the personal conduct policy. The baseline suspension, under the policy, for a player involved in a case of domestic violence is six games, but that can be increased or reduced based on circumstances.
For now, Foster is on paid leave via the commissioner’s exempt list. He was claimed by the Redskins off waivers after being released by the San Francisco 49ers following his arrest in Tampa on a domestic violence charge.
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