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The Tyreek Hill mess shows that franchises are not to be trusted

The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Tyreek Hill three years ago, then asked for trust. Coach Andy Reid said it. Then-general manager John Dorsey said it.

Trust us, said the Chiefs. Literally. Trust us.

And so we did. Kansas City fans by the score trusted the Chiefs. NFL fans by the millions trusted the Chiefs. Any of us who pulled for KC these last three years or even watched a Chief game, we put aside our scruples and watched Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes get the ball to the fastest man in football.

Now we know that trust was betrayed.

In December 2014, Hill was accused by his pregnant fiancé of punching and choking her. The next August, Hill pled guilty to domestic violence and received three years probation, a deferred sentence that required completion of an anger management course and a batterers’ intervention program. And the next spring, the Chiefs held their nose and drafted Hill. 

Then Hill became a Kansas City star. Perhaps the most feared offensive weapon in the NFL, which was no news to Oklahomans. OSU fans saw plenty of such heroics in the 2014 season, including the memorable 84-yard punt return that swung the Bedlam game the Cowboys’ way.

Mike Gundy, to his credit, never played the trust card. He dismissed Hill from the squad the week after Bedlam. But the Chiefs played that card and it cost them.

In March, the Kansas City Star reported that an incident at Hill’s home had left his 3-year-old son with a broken arm. In April, television station KCTV obtained a recording of Hill’s fiancé accusing Hill of injuring the boy. And last week, Hill’s lawyer sent a letter to the NFL saying the fiancé, Crystal Espinal, essentially made up the latest accusations.

I don’t know what happened and neither do you, but we also know that battered women change their stories all the time, because of emotional and financial reasons. And Hill’s lawyer, N. Trey Pettlon, didn’t even try to explain away Hill’s response when Espinal said their son was afraid of his father.

“You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch,” Hill says on the recording.

Espinal called that comment “inexcusable,” and finally we’ve reached some common ground. It is inexcusable. Not to be excused.

As in, no more trust. No more trusting Hill to act decently. No more trusting the Chiefs to ascertain whether their ballplayers are a menace to society. No more trusting that a second chance might give Hill a chance to turn around his life.

Sometimes, the courts and the public square are to be trusted more than coaches whose primary goal is to win games.

The Chiefs have yet to cut ties with Hill, though that surely is coming. There’s no decision to be made. Perhaps the Chiefs are waiting on some legal or league reasons. Or heck, I don’t know, maybe Reid is trying to figure out how to keep Hill on the roster. I’ve always been a big Reid fan, but he’s lost us on the trust issue.

The Chiefs always have been held in high regard, first with founding owner Lamar Hunt and now with his son, Clark. But reputation is as reputation does. The Chiefs asked us to trust them, because they apparently trusted Hill. And now we can no more trust the Chiefs than we trust Hill.

This is a terrible dilemma for fans. Having the Thunder has given us great insight to the psyche of professional sportsdom. College fans, we always have had with us, and the college game brings its own set of problems, when a Tyreek Hill or a Joe Mixon commits violence against women.

But to whatever extent you can explain away such actions, because of youth or circumstance, that option is gone with the pros. These are grown men, with professional support systems that make it difficult to exit the straight and narrow.

Some fans want to believe that their athletic heroes are exemplary fellows off the fields of play. Others don’t need that reassurance. They can just cheer for players while separating the personal from the performance. Call it the Tiger Woods syndrome. You can appreciate the golfing excellence without condoning untoward behavior.

But some heinous acts cross the boundary. Then all fans are compromised. Then all fans must ask if their time and devotion and money are worth it, and their trust in their beloved franchise is gone.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

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<strong>Hill</strong>

Hill

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6c648e8eea7713bd746e812790e7c8bb.jpg" alt="Photo - Hill " title=" Hill "><figcaption> Hill </figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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