Hill is the fifth-round pick who pleaded guilty last summer to domestic abuse by strangulation, stemming from an incident in 2014 when he punched his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach and choked her. He received three years of probation, technically a deferred sentence.
As a lifelong Chiefs fan, I had already spent a week by the time that article was published digesting how to feel about my team drafting Hill. Having lived through many lean years, including watching starting quarterbacks named Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen, of course I was interested in any player who could help the team win.
On the other hand, someone even uttering the name Jovan Belcher could instantly take me back to the drop in the pit of my stomach I felt on that 2012 morning Belcher killed himself in Arrowhead’s parking lot, after brutally killing his girlfriend and the mother of his child. Belcher broke my heart; that a player on my favorite team could do what he did truly saddened me.
With Belcher as backdrop, it was indeed shocking to hear that we had drafted a player who had punched and choked a woman! And not only was she a woman, but she was pregnant with Hill’s flesh and blood, a little boy growing within her stomach as Tyreek punched it. That the Chiefs drafted that guy – that was a shock.
Fast forward two years and it seemed Tyreek Hill was a changed man. He had, by all accounts, truly changed: he had been a model citizen since arriving in Kansas City, making a positive impact in the community. He had not been a problem in any sense for the team (and had, by the way, set the league on fire with his football skills). There were reports that Crystal Espinal, the very woman he had assaulted, had reconciled with him, and they were raising their son together! I mean are you serious? What a story!
Beyond those people who always want to mention the past, I had not heard his name uttered one time in a negative light.
Until, of course, this month.
In the article about Hill being drafted which I mentioned above, the author’s next line read:
The baby boy, by the way, was born healthy.
What a relief that must have been to both Crystal and Tyreek, that after such a traumatic situation, involving an assault that could have endangered the life of their child, he was born healthy. And judging from the pictures and captions on their Instagram accounts (which, admittedly, is not a very good indicator), they have been doting and loving parents.
Fast forward to March 2019, and this same child, who came through more than he’ll likely ever know in vitro, is at the center of investigations being done by the Overland Park police, and child protective services, and (presumably) the National Football League. I had that same pit in my stomach when I heard Tyreek Hill may have hurt his little boy.
See, I have my own son, a 5-year-old. He and his big sisters are my pride and joy, and I would do anything for them. Sure, I’ve yelled at them before, and I’ve punished them before. But I love them fiercely. The thought of them hurting makes me hurt.
Maybe it does for Tyreek, too. Maybe he grew up in a situation where it’s just what you do when your kid disobeys – you manhandle them and spank them. And maybe he was just doing what he’s seen other parents do, or what he himself experienced, and hurt his kid unintentionally. Who knows, maybe the story isn’t true, and he didn’t hurt his son at all. But if he did hurt his son while disciplining him, as has been floated in the media, maybe it hurts him, and he doesn’t ever want to again, and he just needs help to find a better way to be a father.
My first reaction when I heard about this story was that the Chiefs should cut him. Yes, he is our best skill player. And yes, we likely cannot get back to even the AFC Championship without him. But the thought of a 3-year-old being hurt by his father literally made me sick.
I wanted him off the team, sort of like I wanted to forget all about Jovan Belcher ever being on it. Maybe that’s for the best, and maybe Hill just needs to stop playing football and get prolonged counseling so he can stop hurting others and, in the process, himself.
But since I am also a father, I can put myself in his shoes easily enough.
I know how difficult parenting is, and how hard it is to know how to do it well.
I know how easy it is to lose your temper, and how hard it is to remember that disobedient children are… children.
Maybe Tyreek Hill is like many of us and he needs help to be a better parent, perhaps by learning some tools to utilize that don’t include physical force. Maybe, like some of us, he didn’t have the best upbringing himself, and he has to unlearn some things and learn new things.
I’m not even talking about whether he ever plays football again or not; I am talking about the grace and forgiveness I think he might need as a human being.
I understand he’s already been given a second chance, but maybe he needs one more.