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Chiefs’ domestic violence charges cast shadow

MIAMI — When 49ers CEO Jed York met with local media last week before the team departed for the Super Bowl, he called the decision to cut Reuben Foster a “defining moment” for the organization.

“I don’t know that would have been the case with every other coach or general manager,” York said. “Not just here but across the league. It’s hard to give up on talent.”

It’s unlikely York was taking a shot at the 49ers’ Super Bowl opponent, but it could have been interpreted as such.

The Chiefs’ Frank Clark, with his 43 career sacks as an edge rusher, is pretty talented. All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, too. Each player has incidents in his past on par with the transgressions that forced the 49ers to part ways with Foster, the very first player drafted in the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch regime.

The talented but troubled linebacker had fallen into their laps at the end of the first round because of a failed drug test and character concerns. Less than two years later, the 49ers made, in Shanahan’s words, the “very fast” decision to move on. In between came another failed drug test — with accompanying suspension — and two domestic violence arrests. The second, at the team’s hotel in Tampa, was the final straw.

“There wasn’t a decision to be made,” Shanahan said. “We were very clear that if this stuff came up again, there wouldn’t be a decision to be made. We wouldn’t look into whether it was true or not true. You have to stop associating with this. And if you didn’t, it would be the end of the story.”

Ultimately, the first charges were dropped and prosecutors declined to bring a case in the second instance. Washington almost immediately scooped him up, emphasizing York’s point.

Hill pleaded guilty to punching and choking his girlfriend in 2015, while still at Oklahoma State. He was kicked off the team and fell to the fifth round in the draft. More recently, Hill spent this past offseason entangled in a child-abuse investigation. His 3-year-old son had suffered a broken arm, but prosecutors “could not conclusively establish who committed the crime.”

Hill denies these charges. Once the NFL cleared him, the Chiefs signed Hill to a lucrative three-year extension. On Monday night, he had a message for anyone who’s uncomfortable rooting for someone with his checkered past.

“For the people who aren’t Tyreek Hill fans and can’t see themselves being Tyreek Hill fans, I’m sorry,” Hill said. “I feel like everybody goes through rough patches in their life. I feel like our god is a forgiving god. … I’m still maturing. I’m still growing up each and every day.”

Clark’s charges were reduced from a first-degree misdemeanor to fourth-degree persistent disorderly conduct. Clark’s girlfriend alleged that he punched her during an argument, knocking her into a lamp and breaking it.

It was shortly after that the Seahawks drafted Clark and he joined current 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman in the Seattle locker room.

“Honestly, I didn’t have a reaction,” Sherman said. “I don’t judge people off what they’ve done in the past or what people have said about them. I judge people off the individual that I meet and the individual that I get to know and what they show me.”

Clark and Hill both want to tell a story of redemption. Of learning lessons. Of personal growth.

“It’s all true,” Clark said. “Everything they said, I did. … God blessed me and gave me a second chance. Even a third chance. And I’ve been making the most of it ever since.”

Sherman had nothing but praise for Clark, who, like Sherman, grew up in a bad part of Los Angeles around “gangs and drug dealers,” Clark said. He has previously detailed spending part of his childhood homeless.

“I’m so proud of Frank and I’m so happy for him and his success,” Sherman said. “He deserves everything that comes his way. He’s one of the hardest working guys, one of the best human beings, one of the guys that you can’t help but root for.”

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