Tyreek Hill: Allegations, audiotapes, and the media

It’s difficult to scroll past a post regarding NFL superstar Tyreek Hill without seeing dozens of negative comments. These comments are typically one of two things. They either accuse him of punching his pregnant girlfriend or breaking his child’s arm. In addition, many people tag the NFL asking them how they allow Hill to play.

I remember when the news first broke about Tyreek Hill allegedly breaking his child’s arm in March of 2019. The media coverage of the allegations was abundant. He was immediately perceived as guilty across the NFL world.

The instant perceived guilt had a lot to do with the prior incident in 2014, where Hill was accused of punching his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach at Oklahoma State. He eventually took a plea deal. (We will touch more on that later)

Fast forward to the present. While scrolling through Twitter a post about Hill came up. The replies were filled with the comments we previously discussed. I tried to remember whatever happened with the allegations about Tyreek Hill breaking his son’s arm. Oddly, I only remembered seeing all the coverage of the allegations and a couple of vague articles mentioning the NFL cleared him to play.

Taking a hike up the untraveled Hill

Based on that, I decided to do some digging. In today’s NFL players rarely go unpunished with even just allegations that serious. I wanted to understand why so many people still thought he broke his child’s arm but yet he was allowed to play.

It was very difficult to find any coverage that addressed all the initial allegations. That was odd for a story that was on the front page of every national news station at one point. After digging deeper, my eyes truly opened to the irresponsibility of the media.

Eventually, I came across a very well written article on Arrowhead Addict by Farzin Vousoughian who followed this very closely as a journalist covering the team. His piece talked about how the media jumped on the allegations and pushed the narrative right away. His article clarified so many things up and made me dig even deeper. I realized there was a lot more to the story. I interviewed Farzin to get a better understanding of his findings and hopefully give everyone reading this a more fair and better understanding of everything.

A local TV station and reporter eager to make national headlines

It all started with a local TV station in Kansas City. KCTV5 was the first to report the allegations. Below is a timeline of KVTV5’s coverage as told by Farzin Vousoughian.

  • ” In mid-March, KCTV5 reported that there were two police reports at Tyreek Hill’s home. One in February, and the other in March. Tyreek’s name was not on the police report from March. The same evening, the Kansas City Star’s Brooke Pryor, who many Chiefs fans disliked her reporting, reported that Tyreek Hill’s then-three-year-old son has a broken arm. This confused everyone because Tyreek had just posted a video of his son dancing on Snapchat. His arm appeared to be fine. It’s unclear when/if his arm was broken. Brooke took a lot of heat for this.”
  • “On April 24th, one night before the 2019 NFL Draft, the Johnson County District Attorney, Steve Howe, said he believed a crime was committed but does not know who to charge. Therefore, no charges were filed against Tyreek Hill nor his then-fiance, Crystal Espinal. Some Chiefs fans celebrated while some were confused and were left with more questions than answers. I fell in the latter.”
  • “24 hours later, on April 25th, KCTV5 announced on social media that they have an 11-minute audio clip and will air two minutes of it on air to start off their 6 p.m. newscast. Their producers online kept indicating that this is bad and disturbing. Angie Ricono, an investigative reporter, said she received the audio (speculation says it came from either Crystal Espinal herself or a close friend/family member .. no one knows.). KCTV5 claimed they had possession of the audio for a week and were told on the day of the 25th (after Tyreek learned he would not get charged) that they can go ahead and air it. That is when we heard Tyreek’s “you should be terrified of me too, dumb bitch.” comment. (This was in response to Crystal after she said their son is terrified of him.) Keep in mind, this all came out an hour before the draft. The Chiefs announced after the first round of the draft (they did not have a first-round pick) that they have suspended Tyreek Hill from offseason team activities. The Chiefs drafted WR Mecole Hardman with their first pick, coming in the second round. Adam Schefter said after that pick that Tyreek Hill’s career is “in jeopardy.”

The Text Messages

The attorney explained in a letter to the NFL that Crystal Espinal admitted to lying in text messages and admitted she had hurt their son. The text messages were met with a lot of criticism about their validity but the attorney said the texts were authenticated by a third party. The NFL met with Tyreek Hill for 8 hours in July. They reached out to Espinal, but she never responded.

The Full Audio

The public eventually got to listen to the full audio to form their own opinions. Vousoughian said the following about the full audio.

“610 Sports Radio in Kansas City obtained the same audio that KCTV5 had. They had it for a week. They met with their attorney and eventually got the green light to air it. 610 aired the entire 11 minutes several times live on air. Lots of people were upset with KCTV5. Angie Ricono took lots of heat and Casey Clark, the news director, took a lot of heat also. In an interview with Clark’s own sports anchor, he tried to basically sugarcoat the situation and never apologized. The Chiefs used to air preseason games on KCTV5. Due to their coverage of this story, the Chiefs have moved on to another station.”

You can listen to the full UNEDITED audio below.

The NFL got this one right

The NFL seems to mess up every single time on the disciplinary side. They got it right this time. I asked Vousoughian his thoughts as to why the NFL got it right this time by allowing Tyreek Hill to play.

“That’s an interesting question. I know the Ezekiel Elliott story is one that recently comes to mind. There were a lot of unknowns from the public’s standpoint. Maybe the NFL had info that we did not know? I don’t know. It’s hard to judge these situations. The Tyreek Hill child abuse allegation taught me that we need to not jump to conclusions and let the facts play out for one big reason: we were not their when it happened. 

To answer your question, based on the facts we got from the child abuse allegation, I do think the NFL got it right. My only question is, did the NFL think the “you should be terrified of me too” comment was Crystal trying to provoke Tyreek? They only got Tyreek’s side of the story because Crystal did not respond to their request to meet with her. I personally thought Tyreek would have been hit with a suspension for 1 or 2 games because of that comment. Chiefs fans have sugarcoated that comment saying it is not a threat. But let’s be real. If someone walks up to you and says “you should be terrified of me,” every single person would view that as a threat.

It is worth noting that the NFL said it had a copy of the entire 11-minute audio way before 610 Sports Radio aired it. So they knew before we all did about the entire audio clip.”

Revisiting the 2014 incident

After tweeting about the most recent incident I discovered that there were a lot of factors to consider about the 2014 incident where Hill took a plea deal for allegedly kicking his girlfriend in the stomach. My research had me questioning the validity of that case.

Most people don’t realize that this case was expunged and wiped from Hill’s record. There was a lot that went into the case that was questionable. It clearly wasn’t enough to say without a doubt that Tyreek Hill should have to walk around known as an abuser his entire life.

Here is what Vousoughian thinks in regards to the 2014 incident.

I think that incident needs to be reviewed. Tyreek Hill is labeled as a “wife beater” (and a “child abused”) and if he did not hurt her, then that needs to be reviewed. After Tyreek got drafted, most of the questions he answered was about that incident. He did not deny what he was accused of doing and pleaded guilty at the time in 2014. Many are saying he did that because if he did not, his chances of getting to the NFL would have been very slim.

Like I said in your previous question, we were not there and there are a lot of unconfirmed stories about that. His roommate told 610 he did not do it and there is a Twitter account that covers JUCO football (the guy operating the account claimed to know Tyreek) and he also came to his defense. 

So far, it is all hearsay to me until we hear it confirmed from a valid source.

How did the media get to this point?

After learning about the media’s role I wanted to know Vousoughian’s opinion on how has the media reached this point where stories of allegations are more important than stories providing facts and updates about the allegations.

“What KCTV5 did was below the belt, dirt defamation. Out of that entire 11-minute audio clip, they took small parts of key sections and aired them separately on air, almost making it look like they all were said within a two-minute window.

When this story broke the day of the draft, Tyreek Hill’s name was trending and Casey Clark, KCTV5’s news director, celebrated on Twitter and bragged that they broke one of the biggest news stories in the world that day. (Why the hell do you brag about breaking a story about a man possibly breaking his child’s arm? There’s a difference between a journalist doing a great job covering an extreme situation, like a mass shooting, a tornado, a big fire. You don’t celebrate that.)

A few hours after they aired the audio, KCTV5 did something weird. To open up their 10 p.m. broadcast, they spent 5-6 minutes on a story about a local elementary teacher in Kansas City kicking a student at the school’s library. The student did not appear to be cooperating with the class, but that is obviously no reason to kick her. She was caught on camera doing that. Then, they went from that story to the Tyreek Hill story. They basically re-aired portions of the audio clip.

KCTV5 called up local radio stations in town and wanted Angie Ricono to go on those stations to discuss the story. (Funny enough, Ricono nor Clark were willing to do any interviews after the story took a 180 turn against them.)

A week later, KCTV5 teased that they had additional info on the Tyreek Hill story for their 6 p.m. broadcast. The story had zero additional info. At this point, I started to notice that KCTV5 is trying to drag out this 15 minutes of fame of theirs. They got the exclusive audio tape and the entire world kept giving them the source credit. It’s like they needed attention, so they kept going with this story.

To answer your question directly: the initial incident, in other words, the moment that spiked the story, always gets more coverage than the follow-up details. Part of this also has to do with people only reading headlines, but not the actual story. 

When the entire 11-minute audio clip was aired by 610 Sports Radio, only one of the four local TV stations wrote about it. The Kansas City Star did not write about it. The national media mentioned it, but hardly put any emphasis on the turning point of that story. Only TMZ made an effort to include the 180-turn in their headlines.”

Don’t jump to conclusions

I asked Farzin Vousoughian to leave us with some final thoughts regard the situation

I did want to go back to Brooke Pryor. When Tyreek Hill met with the media at training camp, Brooke asked a weird question about whether Tyreek kept in touch with Andy Reid during his offseason suspension. Tyreek didn’t like the question. He asked what her name was. She said “Brooke.” Tyreek smirked before answering the question. (I think he realized she was the one who reported on the broken arm.) Everyone made a big deal about the smirk. Some tweeted Brooke and mocked her by saying “what’s your name?” because that’s what Tyreek asked her. Apparently, she got some death threats and was fat-shamed after that, which I don’t condone.

She was a guest on a radio show (or podcast, not sure which) and made a bold comment. I will paste that here. (below) She never once apologized nor addressed her comments. Her editor at the Kansas City Star did more damage control about these comments.

A lot of national media reporters came to her defense. Chiefs fans tagged my tweet to those reporters. I guess those reporters didn’t like what I had to say, so they blocked me, and I couldn’t see their response. It seems people are upset that a certain narrative was not fulfilled in this Tyreek Hill story, which is a real shame. It’s almost as if these media folks had bet money on the outcome of the situation.

My biggest takeaway from it all was that we need to be careful not to jump to conclusions. I did and regret it. I wish I used common sense and questioned KCTV5’s motives and why they omitted 9 whole minutes of the audio clip. They tricked me and many other fans. Many Chiefs fans believed what they did. As a journalism grad and former sports media guy, I was angry that our local media did this. Our local media does not serve as cheerleaders nor a PR firm for our local teams. (Some will disagree.) But the truth is, sometimes bad things happened and they do need to be reported. But they need to be reported fairly. KCTV5 did not do that. Because of their unfairness, Tyreek Hill is labeled as an abuser to this date.

What bothered me the most is that I watched every single interview that Drew Rosenhaus (Tyreek’s agent) did that offseason. Not one single interviewer bothered to ask about Tyreek. 90% of the questions were about Gronk’s retirement and if he would ever come back. I was hoping he would get asked some questions about Tyreek so we could get some answers. No one cared to ask.

I hope fans learned that we need to let these stories play out. Let’s not gossip on these stories without evidence. I hope our local and national media learned a valuable lesson.

This is not a simple story. The only thing most football fans outside of KC know is that Tyreek threatened Crystal and are convinced he hurt his son. There are plenty of layers, so it does require some people to read additional details so they can know the truth, because if they did, maybe Tyreek not getting suspended wouldn’t be such a big surprise.”

To wrap it all up

There are some clear take aways from all this despite the uncertainties.

  • Don’t blindly trust the media
  • Just because someone is labeled as something on social media, doesn’t mean it’s true
  • The truth and facts matter so here are the facts
    • The 2014 domestic violence case was expunged
    • KCTV5 edited the audio to make a bigger story for the 2019 child abuse case
    • There is no evidence or proof that Tyreek Hill broke his son’s arm

Dominique Clare
Dominique Clare

Dominique Clare is a Blogger, Sportswriter and Fitness Coach.. He is the founder of Sports and Fitness Digest.

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