- - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sometimes I fear we’ve permanently lost the ability to appreciate nuance, understand relativity, and seek a middle ground. There’s little room for subtlety when everyone is outraged and screams hot takes.

Moderation is drowned and reasonability is strangled, leaving two camps at polar opposites on the spectrum of extremism. Raw emotion and irrational impulses take precedence, pushing aside sound logic and clear thinking.

Take, for instance, the Cleveland Browns‘ signing of halfback Kareem Hunt and the subsequent uproar. Allow me to sum up the reaction: “Hunt physically abused a woman! He shouldn’t be allowed to play! The Browns and the NFL don’t care about domestic violence!”

At the risk of being portrayed as someone who condones violence against woman, I believe the Browns made a sound decision. I’m also on a tiny island, judging by the predictable wave of blistering headlines.

NFL proves it has learned absolutely nothing.”

“Signing Hunt shows where Cleveland’s priorities lie.”

Hunt to Browns shows hitting women is pardonable.”

You get the gist. Let’s start with that last one, because it’s the most vexing and most puzzling to me regarding Hunt’s offense and punishment.

While I concur with everyone who says it’s never OK to hit a woman (let me repeat, IT’S NEVER OK TO HIT A WOMAN), we’ll have to agree to disagree if you deny the existence of degrees. If you believe that a punch — like the one delivered by Joe Mixon — is the same as a shove and “kick” — like those delivered by Hunt — you’re intellectually dishonest and you should stop reading this column now.

It’s too easy to lump Hunt with Mixon, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and other players caught and/or accused of domestic violence. It’s like making no distinction between someone found guilty of a misdemeanor and someone found guilty of a felony.

Yes, both are crimes. But the latter is more serious and carries much higher penalties, opposed to a fine and no jail sentence.

To be crystal clear again, I DO NOT think it’s OK for men to push, slap, poke, shove, punch, choke, or kick women, or to abuse them in any way (physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally). We have a serious problem with violence against women — inside and outside of sports, and inside and outside this country.

That being said, I don’t believe Hunt or any man should be punished for the awful, terrible acts of other men. Hunt did what he did and should get what he deserves. Which brings us to the penalty portion of this debate.

Some observers appear to believe that Hunt should never be an NFL player again.

Can you say draconian?

A lifetime sentence for this offense seems absurdly out-of-balance. If you wouldn’t sign him to your team, that’s one thing. But to suggest that no one else should sign him is going too far.

Part of the opposition to fallen athletes receiving second (and more) chances stems from our notion that playing pro sports is a privilege. Athletes make millions of dollars while performing for millions of spectators. The players certainly live lives of privilege.

But my question to the never-agains is this: What job and employer would you deem acceptable for someone in Hunt’s position?

Is he worthy to flip burgers and ask if you’d like fries? Would that mean that McDonald’s condones domestic violence? What message would the Department of Sanitation send if it allowed him to dump your trash cans? Is he ever allowed to work doing anything for any organization? Should his annual earnings be capped permanently?

The NFL’s inconsistency since mishandling the original sin — Rice’s videotaped knockout of his then-fiancé-now-wife — complicates this matter. He never got another shot in the NFL, despite arguably being the best example of contrition and rehabilitation among all the offenders who followed.

His blow was shockingly violent and brutal, but I think another team might’ve signed Rice if he was younger. And judging by the way he has behaved and handled himself since, that signing would’ve been sound in hindsight … except to those who will never forgive him.

Hunt, 23, hasn’t paid the same price, but has gotten off scot-free, either. The former Chiefs halfback was cut and missed the last five games (and all of the playoffs). He’ll likely receive a suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, anywhere from several games to the entire season if the league really wants to make a statement.

Cleveland punished Hunt, too, giving him a one-year deal that reportedly includes no guaranteed money and no signing bonus. His base salary is less than he was due from Kansas City. The most he can earn next season is $1.1 million.

“I would like to once again apologize for my actions last year,” Hunt said in a statement within the Browns‘ announcement. “What I did was wrong and inexcusable.”

We all can agree his assessment.

But regarding what should’ve happened after that, too many of us have lost our minds and any semblance of reason.

Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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