The NFL is no stranger to controversy. From concussion testing to “Deflategate,” the league has seen it all and continues to draw heavy scrutiny. However, the ethical problem that always seems to rear its ugly head is undoubtedly domestic violence. While you’d think the NFL would have adopted stricter policies regarding this issue after recent cases, the opposite seems to be true. The NFL’s handling of its most recent controversy, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and his domestic abuse case, proves that the league is willing to let grave misconducts go unpunished, even supporting these morally bankrupt athletes and giving them second chances. This practice has escalated to the point of absurdity, and it needs to change immediately.
In the summer of 2014, Hardy was found guilty of domestic violence by a North Carolina judge for slamming his now ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder against a bathtub wall and viciously choking her. Hardy and his lawyer demanded a jury trial, and the verdict was vacated until that hearing could take place the following February. However, days before the trial was to begin, Holder stopped cooperating and all but vanished, causing the Charlotte District Attorney to drop all charges against Hardy. Hardy was reinstated to the NFL in March and was to serve a 10 game suspension as ordered by commissioner Roger Goodell, but after Hardy signed with the Dallas Cowboys the suspension was generously reduced to four games. In four games this season he has garnered four sacks, one forced fumble and an interception, drawing immense praise from the Cowboys organization.
Hardy’s story resurfaced this past week when Deadspin.com revealed graphic photos of Holder following the abuse and later followed up with the transcript from Hardy’s NFL hearing a year later. The accounts of the hearing are, to put it lightly, concerning. Hardy’s attorney, Frank Maister, called Holder’s mental stability into question while arguing that the bruises she received were a result of her tripping and falling into the bathtub. This victim blaming is appalling, as is the fact that the NFL allowed it to occur. But perhaps worse is the league’s support of Hardy following the release of the evidence. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated that the organization wants Hardy to be given a second chance and is supporting him in his efforts to move forward, while Goodell has stood by as a passive observer. Many fans and reporters have demanded that Hardy be released, but his solid performance on the field has the Cowboys thinking otherwise; multiple reports indicate that Jones is prepared to eventually offer the defensive end a lucrative longterm contract.
The NFL’s handling of Hardy’s case is unacceptable and displays just how weak it is at disciplining athletes. It’s one thing to give the guy a second chance, but it’s another to let him compete when he was never given a proper punishment in the first place. This is eerily similar to last year’s Ray Rice debacle; Rice received a four game suspension for domestic violence, but after media outcry his sentence was extended for an entire season. Adrian Peterson was suspended indefinitely last year for beating his son and ended up missing all of the 2014 season. Hardy’s case is no different and shouldn’t be treated as such, but by doing nothing the NFL is condoning his behavior. Greg Hardy needs to be suspended for the rest of the season, and the NFL needs to reexamine its policies towards domestic violence or continue to face outrage from fans and media alike.