Reimer: Suspected child abuse at Tyreek Hill's home shows risk teams take when they sign violent criminals

Alex Reimer
March 18, 2019 - 10:40 am

Tyreek Hill was a player with elite talent who fell to the Chiefs in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft. When clubs pick up players whose values plummet due to sordid off-field incidents, it’s tempting to label the moves as “low-risk.” But the two recent police visits to Hill’s residence for reported child abuse and neglect illustrate the risk when taking players with violent pasts.

Officials were first called to Hill’s house March 5 for a child abuse-neglect complaint and returned March 14 to investigate alleged child battery. Hill’s three-year-old son’s arm was broken when the cops showed up last week, the Kansas City Star reports

The details about these jarring episodes are vague. While Hill’s name appears on the first police report, law enforcement decided to close the case three days later without prosecution. The wideout’s name doesn’t appear on the second report, though his fiancee is listed under “others involved.” The Chiefs said Friday they were gathering more information about the incidents.

It’s likely the Chiefs will hold onto Hill until more concrete information becomes available. He’s one of the most dynamic playmakers in football and Kansas City is a much worse team without him. But there is a strong possibility the Chiefs will have to cut their No. 1 wideout, just like they were forced to release their star running back, Kareem Hunt, last season. That can happen when you invest in players who beat up women. There’s always the chance they take down the team with them. 

If the worst suspicions against Hill are true, then his NFL career should be over. In 2014, he was arrested for strangling and beating up his then-pregnant girlfriend, Crystal Espinal, with whom he currently lives. The details of that episode are brutal.

“Espinal, who was eight weeks pregnant at the time, said Hill had grabbed her neck with his hands, pinned her against the wall and then thrown her to the ground like a ‘rag doll,’” the Undefeated writes. “She told an officer that Hill had picked her up by her hair and put her in a headlock. After Espinal had screamed “I can’t breathe” several times, she alleged, he released her, then sat on top of her, punching her in the stomach.”

Those vile actions got Hill kicked off the Oklahoma State football team, but ex-Chiefs general manager John Dorsey took it upon himself to take Hill in the fifth-round. At the time, Hill expressed contrition, vowing to improve as a man and citizen. It introduces a philosophical question: should a person who accepts responsibility for his crime be denied gainful employment, and in the process, the financial wherewithal to care for his victim? 

Dorsey clearly thought Hill should’ve been allowed to work again, probably because he’s an exceptional player. The Patriots batted away similar character questions about Aaron Hernandez, whom several teams reportedly left off their draft boards entirely. The doubters wound up being correct.

But that begs another question: how much damage did Hernandez inflict upon the Patriots brand? For three years, the most successful franchise in the NFL propped up a violent criminal who may have killed at least three people, and even signed him to a multi-year extension after he was involved in a double-murder. But it did not adversely impact their bottom line, and didn’t even impact them on the field. New England advanced to the AFC championship the season after Hernandez’s arrest for the Odin Lloyd murder.

The damage is largely intangible, though the Chiefs would probably suffer without Hill, considering they don’t have anybody to replace his incredible production. If Hill winds up getting arrested for child abuse, the Chiefs’ franchise value almost certainly won’t decline, and Arrowhead Stadium will still sell out. 

But for the last three seasons, one of the faces of the Chiefs, a $2.1 billion operation, beat up his pregnant girlfriend and may have broken his three-year-old’s arm. Owner Clark Hunt will have to live with that.

The 76,000 people expected to fill Arrowhead every Sunday next fall will probably make that process a little easier. 

Related: Report: Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill under investigation for alleged battery