Chiefs suspend Tyreek Hill and he's in NFL's sights after audio recording goes public

Less than 24 hours after a child abuse investigation involving Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill was seemingly put to rest by Johnson County district attorney Steve Howe, an audio recording of a conversation between Hill and his fiancée reinvigorated concerns about who hurt the child — especially after the district attorney made it clear he believes a crime was committed but he couldn’t prove it.

Shortly after Thursday’s NFL draft concluded, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told reporters that Hill was suspended from the team. He didn’t take questions, saying:

“As soon as the draft concluded, after the last pick, I had the chance to call Drew Rosenhaus [Hill’s agent] and we decided that at this time and for the foreseeable future, Tyreek Hill will not take part in any team activities.”

Early on Thursday, Hill released a statement claiming innocence and stating that he’d waived his Fifth Amendment rights to cooperate with law enforcement and answer questions from authorities. But the audio, which was played over the air by news station KCTV5, casts doubt on all that, particularly as it relates to the following exchanges he had with his fiancee Crystal Espinal (the mother of the child in question):

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

"What do you do when the child is bad? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest," Espinal said.

“You do use a belt. That’s sad,” Hill said. “Even my mama says you use a belt.”

And another, as it relates to an apparent arm injury suffered by the child in question:

“He kept crying because he was scared,” Espinal said. “He was terrified. And what, you grabbed on to him somehow or he fell? One of the two.”

“I didn’t do nothing,” Hill said. “That’s sad, bro.”

“Then why does he say [Daddy] did it?” Espinal replied.

“He says daddy does a lot of things,” Hill said.

“A child is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Espinal said.

And finally, the exchange that figures to catch the NFL’s attention the most:

"He's terrified of you," Espinal said.

"You need to be terrified of me too, bitch," Hill said.

After the release of the recording, police were called to Hill’s home Thursday evening, TMZ reported. The site reported that no one was arrested and the police visit lasted about 20 minutes. It was unclear if Hill was at home.

In addition to the concerns for the child these exchanges raise — the district attorney repeatedly stated Wednesday the child “is now safe,” and it’s been reported the child has recently been removed from the home — the conversation also leads to two specific questions that, depending on the answers, could lead to Hill being released by the Chiefs, suspended by the league and/or charged criminally.

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Tyreek Hill through the years
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Tyreek Hill through the years
Feb 2, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tyreek Hill during red carpet arrivals for the NFL Honors show at the Fox Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 24, 2019; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Kansas City fullback Andrew Sherman (42) and receiver Tyreek Hill (10) during AFC practice for the 2019 Pro Bowl at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 12, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs for a touchdown against Indianapolis Colts cornerback Pierre Desir (35) during the first quarter in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 30, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) warms up before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) catches a pass against Seattle Seahawks cornerback Justin Coleman (28) during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) attempts to catch a pass in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 40-33. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs the ball as San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (48) attempts the tackle during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 8, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid reacts to a call after wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) scores a touchdown during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 20: Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) before the AFC Championship Game game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs on January 20, 2019 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 30: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs teases his son, Zev, by leaning away from a kiss during pregame warmups prior to the game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 13: Wide receiver Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium on December 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters (22) and Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) after a NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams on November 19, 2018, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 4, 2018: Wide receiver Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks off the field prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns on November 4, 2018 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Kansas City won 37-21. (Photo by: 2018 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 10: Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) before an AFC West showdown between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs on December 10, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 08: Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) before a Thursday night AFC West showdown between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs on December 08, 2016 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2014 file photo Oklahoma State wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left, is chased by Oklahoma defensive tackle Chuka Ndulue (98) runs a punt return in to tie the game in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla. Hill was arrested Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014, accused of punching and choking his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2014 file photo is Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla. Hill was arrested Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014, accused of punching and choking his girlfriend. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Oklahoma State wide receiver Tyreek Hill (24) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Oklahoma State wide receiver Tyreek Hill (24) carries in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Oklahoma State won 37-20. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
30 August 2014 - Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Tyreek Hill (#24) tries to break free of Florida State Seminoles linebacker Terrance Smith (#24) during the Advocare Cowboys Classic college football game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Oklahoma State Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Florida State won the game 37-31. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Two critical questions must be answered

The first: What did Hill — who repeatedly denied striking the child during the 11-minute conversation — tell the Chiefs?

Officers were called to the home of Hill and Espinal — who share the residence with their son — on March 14, according to a police report from the Overland Park Police Department that listed a juvenile as the alleged victim and Espinal under "others involved."

If the audio proves Hill lied to the Chiefs in any way since then, just remember that the team set the precedent for how they deal with players who do that when they cut Kareem Hunt five months ago. (It’s worth noting that only the Chiefs know what Hill told them, though).

“We were made aware of this information in real time, just like the general public,” Veach said. “We were deeply disturbed by what we heard. We were deeply concerned. Now obviously we have great concern for Crystal, we are greatly concerned for Tyreek but our main focus and our main concern is with the young child.”

The second question that must now be asked is whether the district attorney had possession of the audio prior to his decision to not press criminal charges. If he didn’t, this could give him the ammunition he needs to do just that, as Howe said Wednesday that he could re-open the case if there’s any new evidence that’s brought to light (most criminal cases in Johnson County have a five-year statute of limitations).

Also in the recording, Espinal said she “rode” for Hill when talking to investigators in March, which is significant since the district attorney made it clear Wednesday that he believes a crime took place against the child but he couldn’t prove it.

Audio could put Hill in NFL’s disciplinary sights

Even if the public reveal of the audio doesn’t prompt criminal action, what was said on the recording could still be damning enough to provoke significant NFL punishment.

Back in 2016, Hill’s selection caused a massive firestorm in Kansas City. Many were furious about the Chiefs’ decision to select a player who had just pleaded guilty to punching Espinal (who was eight weeks pregnant with their son at the time). NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told me that if Hill is involved in similar incident in the NFL, he would not only be subject to discipline by commissioner Roger Goodell, but could also be considered a repeat offender, as outlined by the personal conduct policy, and face significant discipline.

“Repeat offenders will be subject to enhanced and/or expedited discipline, including banishment from the league,” the policy reads. “When appropriate, conduct occurring prior to the person’s association with the NFL will be considered.”

The audio of the conversation between Hill and Espinal — including the threatening nature of the “you need to be terrified of me too, bitch” line — makes it easy for Goodell to make an example of Hill in that manner, especially given Hill’s history and especially after Goodell was crushed for initially being lenient in the Ray Rice saga. And remember, Goodell also suspended Adrian Peterson for most of the 2014 season after he was indicted on child abuse charges.

In the latter respect, the anger from fans on social media about the Peterson incident appears to be similar to the outrage the Hill audio sparked Thursday.

Before long, we’ll see if the discipline is, too.

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