This is an editorial by Anthony Stratton and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Guys.
It wasn’t long ago, before the dawn of social media and NFL Network, that the average NFL fan could watch their favorite team win blissfully unaware of the rape, assault, drug and even murder charges previously brought up against the players helping said team win games. Sure they were reported by the local paper and ESPN, but this was before the NFL entered the 24 hour news cycle. The most rabid of fans like myself who were deeply entrenched in the early message boards of the Star knew and discussed these things, but many fans didn’t. To this day I still run across people who don’t know that Jared Allen’s draft stock fell due to alcohol issues and that his eventual trade was not just because King Carl was too cheap to pay him, but because after multiple DUI’s he was up against a lengthy suspension if he repeated his actions.
The landscape of the NFL has changed drastically over the last 20 years. With the advent of social media, NFL Network, 382 ESPN channels, countless online news sources and fan blogs…and oh yeah, TMZ. The average NFL fan has transformed from someone who turned on the TV for nine hours on Sunday and three on Monday to one who consumes the NFL every waking moment on multiple platforms. Today’s fan demands a constant supply of information and when news breaks, whether good or bad, it travels travels fast. Players can’t even go to dinner without their tips being dissected by the public eye and the NFL has found itself trying to keep up with an ever-changing kaleidoscope of infractions and injustices that in years past they would have been content to sweep under the rug.
But not in today’s society of instant reaction and outrage.
Its hard to believe that Ray Rice was actually the first NFL player to ever punch a woman and that Adrian Peterson is the first to physically abuse his child. Yet oddly enough, at the time they both happened, the NFL did not have a documented discipline policy for them. Its hard to imagine that in 90-some years of existence no NFL team has ever became aware that one of their players assaulted a woman or child, and thus didn’t have a need for a structured disciplinary plan. I imagine there have been plenty of players who would have previously fallen into such a protocol, however without the outrage of the consumer, the NFL just never needed one.
The Tyreek Hill situation has brought out every range of emotions in Chiefs fans. Disgust, forgiveness, outrage, repentance, disdain, hope, etc, etc. If Tyreek has done the things he’s accused of, I want him to be kicked off the team immediately!
Or do I?
And thus, the moral dilemma. How does the fan balance personal feelings about a player’s actions off the field with their desire to see their favorite team win a championship? I’ve seen all the cliches:
“You can’t win in the NFL with 53 alter boys!”
This is definitely true, and more often than not we’d like to see “a little nasty” in our players. But where do we draw the line?
“These players are community figures and should be held to a higher standard!”
Also true, as those with high profile positions in any line of work represent the company they work for and are likely to be judged more harshly in the court of public opinion.
But like many things, I suspect many of us fall somewhere in the middle; seeing both sides but not really knowing which end of the spectrum we truly relate to. While we deplore the things he’s allegedly done, we also recognize he is immensely talented and critical to the Chiefs’ success in the 2019 season. Only confounding the issue is the saga of Kareem Hunt, who fans almost unanimously wanted cut from the team. Even those who didn’t find his act egregious still understood that he had betrayed the team’s trust and had to be let go.
That lasted right up until the time John Dorsey and the Cleveland Browns signed him and his suspension was officially announced. Chiefs fans are understandably set aback by the media’s respect for the Browns giving Hunt another chance, while being out a Pro Bowl running back. It is reasonable to now look at Hill and not want the team to cut him just so he can continue on his career elsewhere for another team. However, it also hard to imagine the team being in a position to commit a long term contract to Hill, in fear future incidents could leave them stuck with the Pro Bowler’s cap hit, but no Pro Bowler.
So what is a fan to do? It feels dirty not to publicly demand his release, but at the same time I have no desire to see him play for another team. Perhaps there is only thing left to do, in the face of the modern NFL fans’ moral dilemma, resolve yourself to wait for whatever happens, and accept it knowing that nothing you say or do is going to change the outcome. At the end of the day I am going to be rooting for the Chiefs in 2019.
It remains to be seen if I’ll be rooting for Tyreek.