One of the prevailing explanations from our trusted NFL Insiders about why the league didn’t suspend Tyreek Hill for his involvement in a child abuse case involving his three-year-old son is that the full secretly recorded conversation between the wideout and his then-fiancee exonerates him –– or at least clouds his culpability. But that is not the case.
Hours before the NFL Draft, KCTV5 played excerpts of the couple’s heated conversation, which Crystal Espinal surreptitiously recorded earlier this year while they were boarding a flight in the Dubai International Airport. The edited audio paints Hill in a monstrous light, with the most chilling moment coming when he threatens Espinal.
“You need to be terrified of me, too, bitch,” Hill said. “That’s why you can't keep a f— man.”
Espinal also describes the way Hill allegedly beats their toddler, saying he punches him in the chest and uses a belt. Hill, in turn, accuses Espinal of abusing their son as well. It is repugnant audio.
Kansas City-area law enforcement officials visited the Hill and Espinal’s residence twice over a nine-day span in March for a child abuse-neglect complaint and alleged child battery. The police report from one of their visits says the couple’s son suffered a broken arm, but does not list the suspected perpetrator.
The criminal case was closed last month without charges being filed, but the young boy was removed from the home, according to reports. The Kansas Department for Children and Families is still investigating.
In a statement, the NFL says it conducted a “thorough investigation” and could not conclude Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy. The league says the court documents from the child abuse case are under seal, and thus could not be accessed.
On “Dale & Keefe” Friday, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport explained league officials listened to the full 11-minute recording of the aforementioned argument, which played a significant role in their decision to not discipline Hill.
"Someone called me two days ago and said make sure you listen to the entire 11-minute audio. I said, ‘OK.’ So I listened to the entire 11-minute audio that Crystal Espinal secretly recorded her and Tyreek Hill going through an airport and his comments come off very differently in that,” Rapoport said. “He doesn’t deny when Hill said she basically made up the 2014 incident and she also admits that she knows Hill did not break the arm of her son. There’s a lot in there. The NFL talked to Hill, they talked to people on both sides. They did not talk to Crystal Espinal, who did not make herself available for comment. The end result of all this was he wasn’t suspended.”
Later on OMF, ESPN’s Adam Schefter relayed a similar explanation for the league’s mercy on Hill.
“Keep in mind, that audio came on an 11-minute tape. There was context if you listen to the full 11 minutes,” Schefter said. “Anybody who listened to the full 11 minutes of that tape might have a different opinion. I’m not defending this; I’m just explaining to you why the league decided to do what it did.
“Viewed in the context of the overall investigation, the league also (conducted) interviews with family members on both sides and Tyreek Hill. After that audio tape, oddly enough, Tyreek Hill and his then-fiancee flew back as a couple to the states, and then they were a couple again. It’s a very strange situation. The one thing I can safely say is, I don’t think what everybody assumed is automatically true. I think there’s lots of tentacles and layers to this. It’s easy to jump to conclusions. Again, I’m not defending Tyreek Hill. I’m just trying to explain why the league did what it did.”
There were other components to the NFL’s inquiry. Lead investigator Lisa Friel reportedly interviewed Hill for 8.5 hours and also spoke with family members on both sides. Espinal did not speak to league investigators. Those factors likely played a role in the NFL’s ruling as well.
But in regards to the full audio tape, its contents do not absolve Hill. Below is a transcript of the previously unreleased portion of the recording, which was first played on Kansas City radio in June. The audio runs from 1:00 until about 6:30. Click here to listen for yourself.
Tape Transcript:Hill: I didn’t do anythingEspinal: Then why does he say, ‘Daddy did it?’Hill: I don’t know. He says Daddy does a lot of things. E: A three-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm.
Hill: Before ya’ll had moved here, none of this –– I broke (our son’s) arm, I beat women, none of that s—. That 2014 s—? That’s a lie, too. On me, that’s a lie.Espinal: But you sitting here calling me a ‘bitch’ and everything else.Hill: Because that’s what you is, bro. You f— ruined my life and lied about me in 2014. I’m still not over that. I didn’t touch you in 2014, bro. That’s the real truth.Espinal: Then saying you’re going to f— custody of (our son), that’s not going to …(interrupted by flight attendant)Hill: I’m really mad, bro. You ruined my life and lied on me in 2014. If you want to rewind that night, we can rewind that night. You was in my house. Did I pick you up and slam you? Hell no. I picked you up and put you at my door. After that, you left. And on my son, you did that, bro, Then in the court room, you sit up there and cry on the stand: ‘He hit me, he hit me.’ Come on, bro.Espinal: Then where did the bruises come from, Tyreek? Hill: Did I hit you?Espinal: Where did the bruises come from? I’m asking, ‘Where did the bruises come from?’Hill: Did I hit you, though? Did I hit you? Tell me the truth in my eyes right now.Espinal: You’re not thinking about what had happened –– we’re not thinking about that right now. Right now the issue is …Hill: No. We are going to handle both of these issues right now. I’m still hurt over that, bro.Espinal: You don’t think this s— hurts me?Hill: When you walked outside and turned around, what did you say? ‘Are you sure you’re done with me?’ And what had I said? ‘You can go home. And we done.’Espinal: Why did we get into the argument in the first place? What happened? Why did we get into the argument in the first place? Hill: I don’t even remember why, for real.Espinal: Exactly.Hill: Do you remember?Espinal: Yes.Hill: Why?Espinal: You took my phone and went into the bathroom. You were texting the dude that was saying …Hill: Whose house were you in? You came to my house unwanted that day.Espinal: What? No! You picked me up, because we were going to the movies. We were going to watch the new Hunger Games.Hill: First of all, I didn’t pick you up, because you drove. I remember that. I followed you out the house that day. That’s when I came after you. You were like, ‘Are we done?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, we are done.’ Then next thing I know, four hours later, the police come knocking on my door: ‘Hey, we have an arrest for Tyreek Hill.’ I’m like, ‘Man, what the f—?’Espinal: We had just got done having sex. And you took my phone and went into the bathroom.Hill: I did take your phone and go into the bathroom. That’s when I picked you up and told you you can leave. Then I put you outside. Did I ever punch you in your face? In your lip? No, I did not, bro.Espinal: You had your hand around my neck.Hill: No, I did not, bro. That’s the sad part. No. I want you to sit on this flight and think about that night. How about that?Espinal: OK, I will. I will sit on this flight and think about that. But I honestly want you to think about that night between me and you getting into an argument about the way you discipline our (son). Even that (Child Protective Services) lady says you don’t do it correctly.Hill: OK, I will listen.Espinal: But you’re not listening to me. Think about why a freaking three-year-old would tell everybody and anybody you broke his arm. Why would he do that?Hill: Because I’m the only one that plays with him, that’s why. You don’t do s— with him. I’m the one that gets physical with him.Espinal: No. I play with him a hell of a lot more than you do. You just sit on your f— game all the damn time.Hill: Damn right.Espinal: So don’t sit here and tell me I don’t play with him.Hill: You right. You right, bro. Like I said, I’m sorry for whatever happened. Obviously, this was a match made in heaven right here. We don’t do need no beef.Espinal: No, we don’t. But you really need to think about why (our son) says somebody broke his arm, and every time he says it’s you. Then if I look at him, he’ll change his story.Hill: He’s telling the truth, then. It’s sad, bro.Espinal: Then you sit here and tell me I’m not riding for you?Hill: You’re not, bro. You’re not. You didn’t ride for me in 2014 and you damn sure ain’t riding for me now. I really believe in my heart you’ve got some money behind that.E: You can believe that all you want.
The bolded version, in which Espinal does not say Hill beat her in 2014, is the most ambiguous part of the conversation –– and probably what Rapoport and Schefter are referencing. But she doesn’t admit to lying about the incident, despite Hill’s incessant and aggressive questioning. Instead, she turns the discussion back to their son.
It’s important to keep in mind Hill and Espinal are seated together on an airplane, which might explain why Espinal seemingly tries to defuse his uproar over the 2014 abuse incident. By the way, Hill pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery at the time.
It’s obvious this is one toxic relationship, and both parties do not appear capable of responsibly raising a child. The tape adds some nuance to the situation, but does not make it appear as if Hill is an innocent party. Don’t believe the spin.
Besides, the NFL Personal Conduct Policy states any league employee who levies “threats, intimidation, harassment, or any other adverse action” to another person stands in violation of the policy. Nobody is denying Hill threatened Espinal at the end of the tape, telling her to be terrified of him, just like their young son.
We are five years removed from Ray Rice, and the NFL still hasn’t learned its lesson.