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NFLOpinion

Tyreek Hill Is A Case Of Wrong Choices And Gray Areas

Hill's troubles aren't new or right, yet they're not completely criminal.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Before criminal charges of child abuse were dropped against Chiefs’ receiver Tyreek Hill, and the complexity of his relationship with his son’s mom (which included her threatening Hill with false criminal allegations if he didn’t capitulate to her demands) were brought to the light, he was labeled as a domestic abuser by the media and the social media led public. 

Relationship Tainted By Domestic Issues

Hill and Crystal Espinal, the mother of three of his five children, have a history of domestic problems dating back to when Hill was in college. He was arrested in December 2014 after allegedly and reprehensibly choking and punching Espinal, who was then pregnant with their son. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation and was dismissed from the Oklahoma State football team, though the charges were later expunged.

To further complicate the matter, his financial standing weighed heavily on his decision.

Via medium.com, “As his trial date drew near, he could not meet the financial demands of fighting to clear his name and thus received a public defender in his 2014 case. His decision: risk a trial with a public defender and a jail sentence or take a plea deal and a chance at saving his football career. He was heavily forced, if not coerced, into taking an offer by the public defendant and the prosecution.”

While they probably should have ended the relationship there, they went on to have another baby, who was three years old at the time of the child abuse accusations.

The law and the NFL were diligent in their investigations of the accusations levied against Hill. Privy to information that the public isn’t, both governing bodies felt that under the circumstances, Hill didn’t deserve to be charged with a crime or suspended. 

The NFL announced its surprising decision earlier this month, stating “based on the evidence presently available, the NFL cannot conclude that Mr. Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy.” The end of the statement left the door open for discipline “if further information becomes available through law enforcement, the pending court proceedings, or other sources.”

NFL investigator, Lisa Friel, interviewed Hill for 8.5 hours in Kansas City in late June; the MMQB’s Albert Breer reports that the league made multiple attempts to interview Espinal, but she did not participate.

Hill reported to training camp this past weekend and he will enter the 2019 season without any penalty for the child-abuse investigation or the threatening comments he made to Espinal on a secret audio recording made public this off-season.
Some people are salty about that, while some fans welcomed him back with open arms.

Players Addressing The Media

Hill told reporters that he punches his son in the chest when they are play-boxing, and that maybe his son felt that Daddy was being too aggressive or doing it too hard. 

Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson had his stellar career tainted a few years back after he was suspended and charged with beating his 4-year-old son with a stick, hitting him in the scrotum and breaking the skin. Due to that situation, the NFL and its fans are sensitive to the issue

Peterson denied being a child abuser, but he did agree to a criminal plea deal and was suspended by the league. 

The Ray Rice elevator assault also changed the game and made the NFL much more aggressive in punishing and investigating domestic violence accusations, and rightfully so.

Hill’s case contains more gray areas. The person who accused him of abusing his son is considered — by sources that I have spoken to familiar with Hill’s situation — as someone who embellishes stories and uses threats and past incidents to maintain control in the relationship.

Conflicts Of Raising Black Boys To Men 

As the father of a young boy, I have to say that we try our best to raise them with a combination of love, dedication and discipline. That’s really every father’s goal, especially Black fathers who understand society and know that their boy, due to his skin color, might not have the same margin of error to make mistakes in life. 

If a perfect parenting book existed, I’d go cop it today; but it’s a skill that we learn through trial and error. We take a bit of what we learned in our youth, throw away that which we consider unhealthy and try to improve on the blueprint.

Whenever I horsed around with my son, who has always been very active in sports and can be considered a “tough” kid, I would test him to see how much he could take. I’d throw him down, we’d play wrestle and sometimes it got a bit rough and he’d end up crying. Not because he was in pain, but because I got the best of him again. 

I didn’t immediately coddle him or apologize. If he fell in the park and scraped his knee, I didn’t rush to his aid. I told him to dust himself off and go back at it. He turned to his mom for that kind of love. Maybe the media would be ripping me and my explanation like they have Hill, but then again, my son never got hurt during these activities. 

While Hill’s explanation didn’t satisfy those who condemned him in the court of public opinion, there’s a strong possibility that the incident may have been blown out of proportion.  

Victim Of Aggressive Black Dad Label?

It’s possible that Hill believes that as a father he has to toughen his son up a bit and prepare him for the rough blows and roads that lie ahead in life. He did it in his way. For many people, it wasn’t the right way, but it doesn’t necessarily make it criminal.

Black fathers are sometimes accused of being more aggressive and willing to use physical discipline with their children. In reality, there is a tremendous fear that Black fathers have every day for their son’s well being. It begins at birth and it’s often expressed in a serious tone.    

Hill played his way out of poverty in Oklahoma and into the NFL by being tougher and faster than everyone else. It’s what allowed him to be successful and he strives to provide his son with that same edge. Has he made mistakes, absolutely, and he deserved to be punished for them. But as a father, he’s not as apologetic.

“I really can’t get into that, but punching my son in the chest, that would probably refer to me teaching my son how to box, because we do have boxing gloves at our house, and our son … loves Iron Man, Aquaman, and he’s like, ‘Daddy come on, come on, come on’ all the time,” Hill told reporters.

“So that’s what it is, man,” Hill continued. “Sometimes things get thrown out of context when feelings get involved and emotions. But I’m not gonna get into all that right now.”

If the answer seems vague, it’s because Hill knows that there’s nothing he can say that will either make his situation any more favorable than it is, or change the opinions of people who feel he should be out of the league. He’s returned to the team and won’t be suspended; yet, there are many layers to this case that aren’t for public consumption. 

Let’s just hope that they can develop a healthy relationship for the children’s sake and continue to grow and learn from past mistakes. At the very least, Hill got hipped to a valuable lesson about parenting in today’s society and will find more creative ways, besides physical contact, to get his son ready for life and the challenges that lie ahead.

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