The Kansas City Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt on Friday evening, hours after TMZ released a video showing Hunt shoving and kicking a woman during an offseason hotel disturbance in Cleveland.
“Earlier this year, we were made aware of an incident involving running back Kareem Hunt,” the team said in a statement. “At that time, the National Football League and law enforcement initiated investigations into the issue. As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him. Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact. We are releasing Kareem immediately.”
The team’s statement came less than an hour after the NFL announced in a statement that the league placed Hunt on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Multiple outlets reported that the Chiefs sent Hunt home from the facility after learning the video had been released. Additional reports indicate the NFL and Chiefs have been aware of the existence of the video, but it is not known whether the league or team viewed the footage. However, the league released a statement Friday evening which called the video, “new information.”
“The NFL’s investigation, which began immediately following the incident in February, will include a review of the new information that was made public today,” the statement read in part.
ESPN reported the league made “multiple attempts” to obtain the video, but the hotel rebuffed its attempts due to corporate policy and the Cleveland Police Department would not provide the video.
Hunt released his own statement shortly after the team announced his release, reading in full, “I want to apologize for my actions. I deeply regret what I did. I hope to move on from this.”
The incident occurred at The Metropolitan at 3:22 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2018, and involved then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio.
In the video, Hunt appears to come around a corner outside his rented room to confront Ottinger with a hard shove. The woman hits him in the face and Hunt becomes enraged.
Hunt’s entourage comes to help and attempts to hold him back. At one point, Hunt sends one of his friends and the woman flying into a wall.
Ottinger was on the ground appearing dazed and started to get up. Hunt saw her and delivered a kick to knock her back on the ground.
According to TMZ, law enforcement obtained the video from the hotel. Prosecutors reviewed the footage and decided not to file charges.
Ottinger, who reportedly attends Kent State, told police that the incident started because she refused to have sex with a member of Hunt’s entourage.
Members of the entourage told police Ottinger called Hunt the N-word and physically hit a female member of the entourage.
Hunt was also involved in an offseason incident in which he was accused of punching a man. No charges were filed in that case either and there was no discipline from the NFL for either incident.
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt defended the running back’s character in August.
“Kareem is a young man, second year in the league, obviously had a very big year on the field last year,” Clark Hunt told reporters. “I’m sure he learned some lessons this offseason and hopefully won’t be in those kind of situations in the future.”
Hunt’s placement on the exempt list is essentially an indefinite suspension, as he is not allowed to practice or play for any team until further notice. If he is claimed on waivers, he would be allowed to attend meetings at his new team’s facility. Pending the NFL’s investigation, Hunt could be facing a suspension of at least six games.
If suspended, Hunt would not the first running back to be disciplined by the NFL without being charged with a crime.
Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys received a six-game suspension for a domestic violence incident in 2016 in which no charges were filed. He appealed the ban and it was upheld. The NFL Players Association took the issue to the legal system, and the courts eventually ruled against Elliott, who served the penalty during Weeks 11-16 of the 2017 season. There wasn’t a video in Elliott’s case.
The NFL policy on domestic violence requires a minimum six-game suspension as the baseline in cases of obvious misconduct. The rule was changed in 2014.
The change came after three high-profile players were placed on the exempt list during the 2014 season: Ray Rice and Greg Hardy amid accusations of domestic violence, and running back Adrian Peterson amid accusations of child abuse. Rice was released by his team, the Baltimore Ravens, while Hardy and Peterson sat out the remainder of the season.
Hunt, 23, is from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby and spends a significant part of his offseason in the area. He played college football at Toledo.
Hunt rushed for 1,327 yards as a rookie with the Chiefs last season. He has 824 yards through 11 games this season.
—Field Level Media