Why hasn’t Justin Hunter been placed on paid leave?


The strong public reaction to the Ray Rice debacle forced an overreaction from the NFL, which came up with a procedure for getting out of a hot kitchen by putting players accused but not yet convicted of a crime on paid leave.

After finagling agreements with Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy to be paid to not play, the NFL formalized the use of the Commissioner Exempt list in the new Personal Conduct Policy. The league insists that there’s no discipline involved because the player is still paid, but that ignores the fact that football players want to (wait for it) play football. Especially when a football player’s performance while playing football can result in plenty of positive developments, from helping the team win a Super Bowl to a bigger contract to individual awards to, in time, a permanent bronze bust in a building that, at some point, won’t be able to fit all the bronze busts.

The new policy has two triggers for putting a player on paid leave. First, paid leave applies if a player is charged with a violent crime “in the form of an indictment by a grand jury, the filing of charges by a prosecutor, or an arraignment in a criminal court.” Second, paid leave applies “if an investigation leads the Commissioner to believe that you may have violated this Policy.”

The NFL has not yet placed Titans receiver Justin Hunter on paid leave, even though he already has been arraigned for felonious assault, which allegedly resulted from Hunter punching the victim in the face twice, breaking his jaw and cracking a tooth. (The initial booking records suggested cutting, wounding, and stabbing, which in light of the actual injuries makes little sense.) Hunter currently faces five to 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

The fact that the Titans reportedly expect Hunter at training camp makes the situation even more confusing, given that this case seems to fall within the obvious confines of the paid leave protocol.

Technically, the new Policy says only that a player “may be” placed on paid leave under either of those two circumstances, not “will be.” But if Hunter isn’t going to be placed on paid leave for allegedly punching a guy in the face twice, breaking his jaw, and cracking a tooth less than two weeks after Bill offensive line coach Aaron Kromer was placed on paid leave for an alleged punch that apparently inflicted no such injuries, the league should at least provide a reason for the different outcomes.

Otherwise, the use of paid leave will seem arbitrary, fueling the perception by some that the league simply makes up the rules as it goes.

Or maybe the league is starting to realize that paid leave as a knee-jerk reaction to allegations that haven’t resulted in any type of responsibility may not be the best way to handle these situations, especially since keeping a player from playing football amounts to discipline even if he’s being paid — and since the threat of paid leave will cause many teams to short-circuit the process by putting players unpaid leave, by getting rid of them.

16 responses to “Why hasn’t Justin Hunter been placed on paid leave?

  1. I’m thinking the obvious answer is that it depends on the type of victim. If a player hits a woman or “child”, then he’s placed on paid leave. If he hits another man, well that’s not so bad. Report to camp on time.

  2. Because the NFL has no clue how to punish players and just needs to have a fresh start on punishment guidelines.

    They also need to learn ‘innocent until proven guilty’. If teams have no issue damaging their brand by letting a guy play, that should trump the league. Teams will eventually have so much bad PR that they will start to punish their own guys, until then we leave it up to Goodell to mess everything up.

  3. I’m going to law school and I hope that after three years I will be able to read and understand your posts.

  4. I thought it was obvious. They don’t care about “doing the right thing.” They care about public perception, saving face, and $$$. If it isn’t “cause of the week” and they don’t look bad, they simply don’t care or take their time.

  5. The NFL is sending a clear message. Violence against other men is OK, in fact, it’s what we pay you for.

  6. Maybe it’s because its the offseason, he isn’t being paid right now and without games or money to take from him they can’t really do anything until the case fleshes out and they put down a punishment?

    They can’t say he’s not welcome to camp without a punishment so them saying they still expect him there is what they have to say.

    Oh…and the paid leave thing is crazy dumb anyway.

    The dude is done if any of this sticks so who cares how they get there.

  7. The commissioner is working overtime to develop a new personal conduct policy which he will retroactively apply to this incident.

  8. The NFL simply can’t win here. It’s either a “rampant culture of violence leading to assaults on other people” or they’re “going way too far to unfairly punish players.”

    I wish people would stop suggesting there’s some sort of easy answer here. The NFL gets pressure from major corporate sponsors paying the league tons of money; from public-interest groups; from local, state, and federal governments; and from fans.

    The fans seem like the only constituency who don’t want players whom are charged with violent crimes (whether it’s against women or men) punished until their charges are adjudicated. Everyone else sees the players as role models and wants the league to come down hard on them.

    All of these constituencies are important, and all bring serious revenue to the NFL. You can’t please everyone. Every decision is going to have promoters and detractors.

    To suggest this is somehow an easy decision in any way, shape, or form shows nothing but your own ignorance regarding how a 7+ billion-dollar organization operates.

  9. Because two wrongs don’t make a right. They should never have paid for Peterson & Hardy to sit.

  10. I don’t see how they can put him on paid leave when he isn’t being paid right now. Players don’t get paid until Week 1 of the regular season. If they don’t let him attend training camp while he isn’t being paid, he doesn’t get the chance to prepare for the season. He would have very little chance to make the team without participating in training camp and the preseason, so that punishment would be overly punitive. He should be allowed to go to training camp with the understanding that he would be put on paid leave once the regular season starts if the case hasn’t been resolved by then.

    Coaches are paid throughout the year, so it makes sense for the Bills coach to be on paid leave.

  11. “The league insists that there’s no discipline involved because the player is still paid, but that ignores the fact that football players want to (wait for it) play football.”

    This is, of course, what all fans want to believe. But consider Albert Haynesworth as just one example. Can you really say that he wanted to play football? Or was he just looking for a big payday. In the early days of the NFL, players played for peanuts, and so many of them had such a passion for the game that I really do believe them when they say they would have played for nothing. Today’s players? I believe a significant number, though nowhere close to a majority, only play for the money and fame.

  12. He’s not on leave because he isn’t a big enough name for the world to notice and because neither the league or the teams really give a single damn about doing the right thing unless the PR gets so bad they have to make a token gesture.

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