Running back Kareem Hunt acknowledged lying to the Kansas City Chiefs about his role in a February assault in a Cleveland hotel that ultimately led to his release this weekend.
During a live interview with ESPN on Sunday, the NFL's reigning rushing champion also said that league officials never spoke to him about the incident while conducting their own investigation, and that he never saw the security camera video until TMZ Sports posted it Friday.
In the course of a few hours, Hunt went from preparing for Sunday's game in Oakland to being sent home from the practice facility. He was then placed on the NFL's Commissioner Exemption List, summoned back to the team facility and told that he was being released.
“They believed that I lied to them. I lied to them,” Hunt said. “They pretty much said, we love you, everybody cares about you, and just we have to let you go. It was a tough conversation. And the Chiefs did what was right. I made a poor decision and I'm willing to take full responsibility.”
In the grainy, graphic video, Hunt is seen getting into an argument with a woman and several men step in to hold him back. The video appears to show him later pushing one of the men, knocking down a woman whom Hunt admitted he did not know, and eventually kicking her while she lays on the ground.
The video brought immediate comparisons to the video of former Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was seen punching out his then-fiancee in an elevator. That incident led to a lengthy legal saga, culminating in an investigation by Robert Mueller into the NFL's mishandling of it.
The league eventually hired more staff to conduct such investigations, and announced it would take a more active role in handling similar cases in the future.
The NFL made multiple attempts to obtain the video of Hunt, but the hotel said corporate policy allowed the video to be given only to law enforcement. The NFL then contacted Cleveland police, but the department said Saturday it did not pursue the video because it was not a felony-level case.
When asked whether the NFL spoke directly to Hunt about it, he replied: “No, they have not.”
Hunt said he'd just purchased an apartment in the Cleveland hotel and had several friends over, and that he did not know the woman involved in the assault. Hunt said the argument came at the end of “a long night” and that “it was just a disagreement. I honestly wanted her just to leave.”
“That's not an excuse,” he said. “I'm not that person in that video.”
Hunt pointed out that he was raised by his mother and grandmother, and “they always taught me well. I know right from wrong and I'm a person that always wants to make everyone happy.”
Still, Hunt has been in trouble before. He was suspended during his junior season at Toledo for a violation of team rules, and he was accused of a second, unrelated assault over the summer.
As in the case with the hotel incident, no charges were filed in that case.