No. Such a simple word. Two letters and one syllable. But what power that little word can carry, if uttered by the right person at the right time.
The Bears had a chance Monday to say no to the idea of signing woman-batterer Kareem Hunt. To be precise, they had five chances to say no to reporters’ questions Monday about the possibility of adding the former Chiefs running back to their roster.
But they wouldn’t. And it was a very bad look.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy didn’t shut the door on the possibility of signing Hunt, whom the Chiefs cut in November after video emerged of him pushing and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel.
They didn’t say yes, but they wouldn’t say no.
“That’s a good question as we go into that,” Pace said when asked if Hunt’s troubles would stop the Bears from pursuing him. “Obviously, there’s a lot of things off the field that he’s got to take care of. Matt knows Kareem. I don’t know Kareem. Those things are all going to have to play out.”
Nagy was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator when Hunt led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in 2017. He talked with Hunt a week ago. His concern, he said, was for the person, not the football player. He called the February 2018 incident a “surprise.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody,” Nagy said. “We all understand that. It’s a learning lesson for everybody. The biggest thing is making sure he understood that when I talked to him. But I also understand that there are other parties involved, and so does he. That’s life, and you want to make sure you handle it the right way.”
I’m guessing that getting pushed and kicked was more than “an unfortunate situation” for the woman on the business end of Hunt’s hands and foot.
We’ve all learned that very few character flaws can disqualify an athlete from getting a contract from a pro sports team. But you’d think that Pace would have learned his lesson after the 2015 decision to sign troubled defensive lineman Ray McDonald blew up in his face. Just two months after the Bears took a chance on him, McDonald was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and child endangerment. The Bears cut him.
Apparently, Chicago is the most forgiving sports city in the world when it comes to domestic violence. The Cubs recently reached a contract agreement with shortstop Addison Russell, despite the fact that he’ll serve an unpaid suspension to start the season after being accused by his ex-wife of physical and mental abuse. The contract includes bonuses that will give him the chance to recoup the money he’ll lose during the suspension. So nice of the Cubs.
They were also the team that traded for hard-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman in 2016, even though he had started the season on the suspended list after being accused of choking his girlfriend.
When will teams learn?
Maybe they don’t have to. Cubs fans cheered loudly the first time Chapman entered a game at Wrigley Field. The viewing public needs to take some responsibility for the city’s sports teams shrugging at athletes’ ugly behavior.
The Bears could use Hunt’s talents. They have running back Jordan Howard, who isn’t a good fit for Nagy’s offense, and Tarik Cohen, who is dynamic. Hunt’s running and catching ability certainly would help. But at what cost? Signing him would send a terrible message that women, who make up a decent percentage of the team’s fan base, don’t matter as much as more offensive production does.
No matter what is said, no matter how agreeable the words are about Hunt the human being, watch the TMZ video of the incident. It’s not pretty.
At the Bears’ end-of-season news conference Monday, a reporter asked Nagy if the Bears should pursue Hunt.
“There’s one thing right now with Kareem, and that’s worrying about him as a person,” he said. “I talked to Kareem. I completely wanted to know how he’s doing. We had a good conversation. Here’s a kid that I spent a year coaching on offense. It’s a tough situation. I wanted to make sure that he’s OK but understanding, too, that the situation that happened is unfortunate for everybody. And he knows that.
“So the only thing I cared about when I talked to him was literally his personal life, and it was a good conversation. He sounded good. That’s it. The other stuff, that’s not where it’s at. There’s more to it than the football.”
Nagy said some people deserve second chances, depending on the circumstances. That raises the same question that I had with the Cubs’ decision to stick with Russell: Where does it say that forgiveness and rehabilitation mean athletes get to keep their high-paying, high-profile day jobs? Sports teams sure have big hearts when they think a player can help them.
Pace didn’t sound haunted by his decision to sign McDonald almost four years ago. It certainly didn’t sound like it would scare him away from researching Hunt.
“I think every one of those is unique,’’ he said. “Everyone is different. All the circumstances are always different. So we’re not even there yet, you know what I mean? I know what he is as a player, obviously, from watching him. Matt knows a little bit more about him as a person, but we’re not even close to that point.’’
Don’t even go there, Ryan. Say that tiny, powerful word: No.