Some — not all, but some — Chiefs fans have picked a strange hill to die on.
The Tyreek Hill truthers cling to the notion that, absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the Chiefs receiver broke the arm of his three-year-old son, he cannot be suspended. Emboldened by a recent comment from the local district attorney that Hill currently isn’t the subject of an active criminal investigation, while selectively ignoring the NFL’s comment that this development has no impact on its review of the situation, the Tyreek truthers have gone on the attack, insisting that Hill is “innocent,” demanding that he not be suspended, and shouting down anyone who would dare to mention that there’s much more to the story than the question of whether Hill will or should be prosecuted for child abuse.
The Personal Conduct Policy sweeps far more broadly than that. Beyond the fact that the NFL can, and will, investigate and punish a player for domestic violence even if he’s never arrested or charged (e.g., Ezekiel Elliott), the NFL also can, and will, punish a player for domestic misconduct that does not involve actual violence.
Indeed, the very first type of prohibited conduct listed under the policy covers “[a]ctual or threatened physical violence.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, threats alone are enough.
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith learned that lesson last year, when he received a four-game suspension for threats and emotional abuse of the mother of his three-year-old child, apparently within the context of a custody dispute.
“The NFL found evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors by Jimmy toward his former girlfriend that showed a pattern of improper conduct,” the Ravens said when the suspension was announced last year. “Our player’s behavior was inappropriate and wrong.”
The behavior also wasn’t violent.
“I’m very close to Jimmy and it’s unfortunate with what happened,” former teammate Eric Weddle said at the time. “It’s hard to fathom arguing with your [significant other], never touching her and that gets you a suspension like this when guys are getting DUIs or physically abusing other people, and they never get near this [penalty]. I know details of it that I can’t get into, so I just feel bad for him.”
Hill admits that he said to Crystal Espinal earlier this year, “You need to be terrified of me too, bitch.” The comment came during an argument with Espinal regarding whether Hill’s son respect Hill or is terrified of him.
It’s for the league to decide whether that comment from Hill to Espinal amounts to a threat. Given that Hill previously admitted to choking and beating a then-pregnant Espinal in December 2014, it’s hard to regard his comment as idle chatter. And Hill’s past conduct, for which he was never disciplined by the league because he wasn’t in the league yet when it happened, surely will influence the league’s handling of him now.
What Hill previously did to Espinal was reprehensible; even the most ardent Chiefs fan will admit that. His comment — you need to be terrified of me too, bitch — suggests that the person who choked and beat Espinal more than four years ago is still lurking within him. That person requires intervention by the league, and if the league gave Jimmy Smith a four-game suspension with no history of violence or other misbehavior toward the mother of his child, Hill arguably merits at least that much.
Then there’s the ongoing proceeding that resulted in the removal of Hill’s son from Hill’s custody. Something like that doesn’t happen without serious, proven concerns that the child has been placed at significant risk, and the Personal Conduct Policy specifically prohibits “[c]onduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person.”
Applying basic logic, if Hill’s behavior created a situation that prompted the government to remove his son from Hill’s custody, Hill necessarily engaged in behavior that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person.
Applying more basic logic, the league’s decision to delay its investigation while the Child Protective Services matter remains active suggests that the league has specific questions and concerns regarding the overall circumstances that resulted in Hill’s son being removed from Hill’s custody, regardless of whether those circumstances involve violence or threats of violence or emotional abuse.
So even without proof of violence, Hill can be suspended. He can be suspended for threats or emotional abuse of Espinal, Hill’s son, or both. Hill’s history of violence against Espinal, choking and beating her while pregnant, would become an aggravating factor that could make Hill’s suspension much longer than the four games Smith got last year.