Our Sports Editor tackles the issue of domestic violence, the NFL and Cowboys’ DE Greg Hardy. All opinions and viewpoints are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Salute Magazine as a whole.
On Friday, photos began circulating of the alleged damage to Greg Hardy’s then girlfriend caused by a domestic incident with Hardy. While the photos released are unsettling, they did not change my view of the situation with Hardy, rather just providing more evidence as to the event that took place. Out of respect of the victim, I will not be placing the photos in this editorial, but you can see the gallery here if you wish.
The photos are an additional display of events that we had all become familiar with when Hardy went through a bench trial and was given a suspended 60-day jail term and 18 months probation after being found guilty of assaulting his former girlfriend, according to the Charlotte Observer. Hardy’s case was later thrown out because the victim no longer wanted to cooperate, although reaching a settlement outside of court could be why.
The most interesting aspect of the recent photos release is that there was a huge outcry as to why Hardy was still playing in the NFL — a warranted outcry — but much of the blame seems to be falling on the NFL and it is unwarranted at this time. Perhaps the best way to get the point across is by breaking down the criticisms and comparisons into sections, thus providing a clearer, more detailed breakdown of the Hardy situation.
Criticism of the NFL
By far the biggest area of concern with football fans has been the NFL‘s role in discipline — namely Roger Goodell himself. Many of these concerns have been warranted in the past, with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson discipline handling, but the NFL got it right with how they handled the Hardy scenario. Before you write off the rest of this article, let me explain. The NFL — among other sports leagues — tend to let player discipline work itself out in those situations involving an athlete involved in a rape investigation. This allows for due process to run its course, but these cases also tend to have quite a bit of burden of proof that are associated with them.
Many of us feel that the NFL, and Goodell, got the Rice discipline wrong. Whether it is because questions surrounded the video and if the NFL had already seen it, or if they rushed to judgment in the case. In Rice’s case, he was indicted but then entered into a pretrial intervention program focused on his rehabilitation and so that he could avoid jail time, according to Time. He was given an initial two-game suspension, released by the Ravens, suspended indefinitely and then was reinstated by Judge Barbara Jones following an appeal on Dec. 1, 2014. Rice has yet to sign with a team since his reinstatement though.
The NFL would then be brutally criticized in how they handled the Rice scenario, but new player policies came to be because of it. A proactive approach had not been taken by sports leagues up to that point, but it also brought forth new verbiage in Major League Baseball.
Shortly after that case was handled, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was then involved in a child abuse case and he was placed on the Exemption/Commissioner’s Permission List, much like Hardy was on Sept. 17, 2014. Peterson has since been reinstated and is having a decent season for the Vikings.
The NFL did what it needed to when handling the Hardy case and he was given an additional 10-game suspension after being placed on the exempt list last season — which is, in essence a paid suspension. The Carolina Panthers chose to release Hardy in the offseason and he signed with the Dallas Cowboys. One of the key factors in the Panthers decision to release Hardy was public scrutiny of him being on the field.
Public opinion has tremendous pull in today’s society, and it should to an extent, but everything in moderation, right? The NFL faced scrutiny following Hardy’s suspension being reduced from 10 games to four by arbitrator Harold Henderson, and that was before the recent release of the damning photographs Hardy’s former girlfriend. What has ensued over the weekend is a call for the NFL to do something and that Hardy shouldn’t be on the field.
These calls for action of the NFL are a joke, essentially, because they gave him a 10-game suspension. If fans want to criticize anyone, they should go after Henderson and the Cowboys’ organization because they are the reason that Hardy is still playing currently. Perhaps even drawing a sense of hatred towards the NFLPA for its backing of Hardy, and seemingly the backing of domestic violence if you will, would be more in line than a hatred of the NFL itself.
But, this increased criticism should have been of anyone that signed Hardy because the bench trial evidence was fairly damning and the Charlotte Observer noted the judge’s decision on what the evidence was leaning towards. “In announcing her decision, Tin noted that Hardy and Nicole Holder told wildly different versions from the witness stand of what happened in the football player’s luxury uptown apartment on May 13. But the judge said the evidence persuaded her beyond reasonable doubt that Hardy beat Holder, threw her around his apartment, then tried to hide his actions with a fabricated 911 call.”
The biggest criticism of the NFL should come when discussing the uniform code and that it leads to players being fined by the league when they are trying to support a good cause. This is my biggest complaint with the NFL, and players like DeAngelo Williams and William Gay should not be discouraged to support worthy causes like breast cancer awareness and domestic violence awareness.
In fact, the NFL has public service announcements that call for an end to domestic violence and that they won’t support those that are involved with domestic violence or assault.
There was also a heartbreaking video that aired during Super Bowl 49.
Maybe the NFL should match the player’s fine for a uniform code like Williams’ and Gay’s and donate that money to a charity that supports the cause that the player was trying to draw awareness to.
Tom Brady suspension vs. Greg Hardy suspension
This is probably the most inept attempt of fans pointing their hatred towards Goodell and the NFL, and it is the most confusing. There have been fans that try to compare Deflategate and the Hardy domestic violence suspension, and the only thing that it does is make them look like fools. For one, alleged cheating and domestic violence are two different entities and should be handled differently, especially with a collective bargaining agreement in place. Second, they are nowhere near the same thing, although I am not a proponent of Brady getting off unscathed from the Deflategate fallout, but that is another topic.
For those that feel that it is “unfair” for Brady to receive the same suspension initially as Hardy — that was never the case prior to arbitration. Brady was let off with no suspension and Hardy’s was reduced from 10 to four games, and they were dealt with separately even though the storylines intertwined for much of the offseason. Many people thought that Brady — who lost his appeal with the NFL — would at least get a two-game suspension, but U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman overturned the suspension altogether.
The only comparison between Brady and Hardy is that they each had their suspension reduced (Brady’s to zero games), therefore, there can be no comparison between the two suspensions or scenarios, nor should there ever be again. Domestic violence, as I’ve said before, cannot compare to an alleged rules scandal.
Dallas Cowboys being biggest enablers of Greg Hardy
While I cannot take credit for making this statement, I believe that the Cowboys — and owner Jerry Jones — are walking a fine line between providing a second chance for Hardy and enabling an alleged domestic violence offender. Society knows an enabler when they see one, in most situations, and Dallas has earned that label with their backing of Hardy and his side of the story.
ESPN’s Ian O’Connor wrote an article calling for the Cowboys to suspend Hardy and not enable him and I fully agree with him on all counts. Before prying into the enabling aspect of the Hardy/Cowboys situation, all you have to do is read what Jones said about his new defensive end.
“Our organization understands the very serious nature of domestic violence in our society and in our league,” Jones said at the time. “We know that Greg has a firm understanding of those issues as well.”
“He’s, of course, one of the real leaders on this team, and he earns it. He earns it with the respect from all his teammates. That’s the kind of thing that inspires a football team. … I don’t have any issue with him being involved in motivating or pushing in any part of the football team, because he plays and walks the walk,” via ESPN.
Both of those statements were made at separate times this season, with the first revolving around Hardy learning from the past and the second coming after an altercation occurred on the Cowboys’ sideline involving Hardy, several of his teammates and Hardy going on the rampage. It is evident that Jones and the rest of the organization don’t understand what it takes to be a leader, and they are almost encouraging this behavior from a player that was embroiled in a domestic assault conviction that was later dropped and has now been surprisingly expunged.
Greg Hardy is a great football player, and football is a violent sport, but that violence needs to stay on the field. But an organization also needs to step up and call it how everyone else sees it, whether they want to admit they made a mistake or not.
The problem doesn’t necessarily fall solely on the NFL and the organizations that function within the league, but rather is a close relation to societal problems.
Sports and society
Sports are often a microcosm of what is going on in society as a whole, and domestic violence is just another cog in the spinning wheel of culture. I’m not saying that society looks at domestic violence or other misdeeds in a positive light, but it does bring up the question of what issues society holds over other issues.
Football fans can recall a certain situation that involved Steelers backup QB Michael Vick and a dog fighting ring that he was associated with. To this day, there are still protests over him playing in the NFL because of the fallout that was associated with the events surrounding the abuse of dogs.
Suddenly, we have the Cowboys giving Hardy a “second chance” and there are a ton of fans that are okay with this occurring. But should they be based on what we have learned about Hardy over the last several months? Society, not necessarily as a whole, tends to hold the rights or lives of animals over those of humans, and that is a thought process that has become accepted among many groups. While this isn’t always a political issue, we do tend to see the most fallout from these issues in the realm of one side of politics or the other.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned from the current Hardy scenario and Vick’s several years ago, is that society tends to decide who or what we should all be passionately for or sickeningly against. Vick served his time and seems to have become a better man because of it, but the same seems to be escaping our mental grasp when it comes to the protesting of a player that allegedly severely beat his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder.
If you want to keep protesting Vick, be my guest, but don’t lose sight of the fact that we aren’t doing the same to Hardy. And that in itself makes many of us sick to our stomachs.