It’s OK to root for Tyreek Hill

I completely understand if people have been conflicted this season watching Chiefs standout rookie Tyreek Hill set the NFL ablaze, contributing to his team’s success far earlier than most 5th-round picks.

During his time at Oklahoma State in 2014, Hill punched and choked his then-girlfriend following an argument. He pleaded guilty to abuse by strangulation in 2015 and was sentenced to three years probation on a plea agreement. The entire ordeal was horrid and unforgettable, even before  mention that the woman was eight-weeks pregnant at the time.

It’s important that we don’t forget what happened, because Hill may one day become an example of what not to do, who not to be, or how a person can and should change. But more than two years later, it’s OK to look past his transgressions and enjoy him play.

We like to think of violence against women as a football issue, something exclusive to athletes. We act as if domestic violence is something that only league’s need to deal with and that we all can judge from a distance. Maybe this way of thinking somehow makes people feel disconnected from a real-world issue. But the reality is “regular people” deal with domestic abuse too, and it’s an issue we all have a hand in fixing. It’s a culture that our country needs to address. Whether it’s OK to hit a woman isn’t something we should look to our favorite teams to set moralities and make us feel good about – essentially exiling anyone with a tattered past so we can act like the issue doesn’t exist daily outside of sports.

We should want people who have abuse problems to get help, so the cycle of abuse doesn’t continue. We should want personal reform more than punishment. And although punishment is often necessary for that reform, it should come from a fair judicial process, not a potential employer. People should be given second chances after paying their legal dues, and if a second chance proves to be insufficient, the justice system should have a next-step program for multiple offenses. And when someone is successfully reformed, we should applaud the outcome. We should be happy that another woman doesn’t have to be subjected to abuse. Simply banning an athlete from playing a sport doesn’t ensure that. It may actually have adverse affects.

The people an offender deal with day-to-day have more reason to take extreme action than someone that comes along after said offender has dealt with the issue. Hill’s girlfriend rightfully pressed charges against him. Oklahoma State rightfully released him from the football and track programs following his arrest. Afterwards, Hill enrolled at West Alabama for a season, and in 2016, the Chiefs drafted him with the 165th overall pick in the NFL draft.

Any team that passed on Hill because of his past did so to avoid having to address the questions and potential distractions, not because they were trying to stand on a moral high-ground. And as businesses, they shouldn’t be criticized for those decisions. In the same vein, we shouldn’t condemn West Alabama for taking a chance on a kid who had hopefully learned a valuable lesson. And we certainly shouldn’t condemn the Chiefs for giving Hill an opportunity to make a living. All we can hope for is that the organizations did their due diligence in the interview and background-check process.

Hill confessed to his transgressions and apologized. And as far as we know, he hasn’t had another issue since. It would be nice to see him advocate on behalf of domestic violence groups, but he’s not obligated to. He remains on probation and will likely go to jail if he doesn’t abide by it. That should be enough to keep Hill in check. Unless he has another incident, it’s not on us to hold it over his or his employers’ heads anymore.

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Author: Prince J. Grimes

BottomLine Editor at ESPN. Former sports writer for Southern Maryland Newspapers and the Gazette newspapers. Graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. Hip-Hop was my first love.

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