It's no secret that in today's world, Facebook and Twitter are way too frequently the most mean-spirited places on Earth. They're also ridiculously addictive. Like many others, I spend way too much time checking Facebook.
In one of my way-too-many Facebook check-ins late last week I came across a meme about former Oklahoma State Cowboy Tyreek Hill that summed up perfectly the problem with social media in this emotionally hyper-charged era where raw, unchecked emotions, fueled by half-truths or flat-out disinformation, have become the rule of the day.
It is now fashionable to call for NFL boycotts and proclaim NFL players to be driven to subterranean depths, being not fit for polite society. Yes, the NFL players started it with their national anthem protests, but in typical fashion, the Internet, via social media, has gone over the edge.
There have been multitudes of posts and re-posts pointing out the number of players in the NFL who have some level of criminality in their past and implying they have gotten off easy because they play football. Have some? Sure. But have we arrived in a time where a person is not allowed a second chance?
I have written twice before about Hill and maybe that's why one meme in particular made me want to throw my hands up and say "enough!"
This is what was written about Hill in the Facebook meme, accompanied of course by the most unflattering photo that could be found of him:
Hi, my name is Tyreek Hill of the KC Chiefs. In college I brutally beat and attacked my pregnant girlfriend. Took a plea and got off easy with probation. That didn't affect my employment status with the NFL though!
Beneath that, the Facebook poster added: "He's SCUM OF THE EARTH."
As with most memes, there is a kernel of truth. Yes, Hill did assault his pregnant girlfriend, but it pretty much ends there. It wasn't as if there were no consequences and he went along his merry way.
You will recall that in 2014 Hill became OSU's Beldam hero after returning a game-tying punt for a touchdown against Oklahoma in a game the Cowboys eventually won in overtime. But shortly afterward he was accused of a vicious assault on his girlfriend. He was immediately dismissed from OSU.
He eventually pleaded (as happens in many criminal cases) and went on to successfully complete his sentence. He wound up at West Alabama, a school deep in the NCAA Division II ranks. Once there, he showed again his talents on the football field. Equally important, he stayed out of trouble.
To say he did not pay a price is ludicrous. He lost his spot on one of the nation's top football programs, lost his scholarship, plead guilty and then battled back from near obscurity. He also likely lost millions of dollars by not being a high draft pick out of a high-profile school.
His play caught the attention of NFL scouts and the Chiefs took a flyer on him with a fifth-round pick. The club was heavily criticized for the pick, but so far it appears to have been a wise move. Hill not only has become one of their top players, he has been quiet off the field.
Through 20 NFL games, Hill has 82 receptions for 881 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. He also has three special teams touchdowns.
The Chiefs' gamble appears to be paying off quite well.
Shortly after he was drafted, Hill addressed the uproar over his selection.
“They (the fans) have every right to be mad, but guess what? I’m going to come back and be a better man, be a better citizen," he told The Associated Press. He fully acknowledged the egregiousness of his assault on his girlfriend.
To date, Hill has not betrayed his words. If he does, then there would be reason to further castigate him.
This is not a matter of making excuses either. There are no excuses for what he did.
But there also needs to be some understanding that a person, even an NFL player, deserves a second chance and when that person appears to be making the best of a new found opportunity, if not praised, should not be the subject of perpetual condemnation. Maybe, just maybe, he could be held up as an example of doing the right thing, given another opportunity.
Personally, I don't want any part of a society that does not offer a second chance to those deserving of, or earning, one.
Hill's post-conviction actions so far have shown him worthy of another opportunity. Hardly the definition of "scum."