The sport of football is not just a game. How long will it take for people to realize that it is so much more?
Football can be an escape from reality. This goes for the fan that comes home from a long day at work, flips on the TV, and gets lost in the excitement of their favorite team fighting for every yard. It also goes for that high school kid, from the tough neighborhood. He runs away from defenders on that field every Friday night, envisioning himself running from the negative influences pulling at him every day in the streets.
Football can be about community. It can be having a couple beers and enjoying some barbeque during a good tailgate. It can be about dressing up or painting your face and going all out with friends in your home team gear each Sunday.
Football can be about social awareness. It can be about supporting breast cancer awareness simply by wearing the color pink. It can be about a group of college kids trying to fight for their rights by trying to allow student athletes the ability to unionize.
Then there is the pinnacle, the shield. Where football is about ignoring issues or what is right when it interferes with money. Where they deny the effects of brain trauma caused by physical contact to the head until a revered man kills himself. Where a man’s mother can pass away from the same disease you claim to want to build awareness for and you sue him for showing support because it’s not the right month.
Unfortunately, domestic violence is another issue that will get swept under the rug if we don’t make it a point to express a need for action.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Greg Hardy this offseason who everyone knew was going to add a great deal to the team. A lot of good play and a lot of bad… Well, just bad.
He has missed more than half of the Cowboy’s games so far this season and is still their leader in interceptions, sacks, and forced fumbles. But his talent on the field is not what Hardy makes headlines for; it is his disturbing legal troubles and obscene attitude.
The Cowboy’s infamous defensive end has found himself excused from his actions time and time again and it is getting more difficult to understand how or why each time his name is brought up.
On May 13, 2014, Hardy was arrested and charged with assaulting and threatening his then girlfriend, Nicole Holder. After being found guilty, Hardy appealed, which pushed the trial to February 9th, long after the NFL season.
According to the domestic violence protective order filed, Holder stated:
Greg Hardy attacked me in his apartment. Hardy picked me up and threw me into the tile tub area in his bathroom. I have bruises from head to toe, including my head, neck, back, shoulders, arms, legs, elbow and feet. Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded. Landing on those weapons bruised my neck and back. Hardy screamed for his administrative assistant to come into the room and hold me down. Hardy and Curtis then took me into the living room area. I wasn’t nearly strong or fast enough to escape. I begged them to let me go and I wouldn’t tell anyone what he did. They took me out into the hall, pushed me down and went back inside his apartment. I crawled to the elevator and ran into CMPD. (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)
In 2014 Greg Hardy played one game for his former team, the Carolina Panthers, before being placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List for the remaining 15 games. The NFL allowed Hardy to still collect his salary of over $13 million while he didn’t play and the legal process continued.
The NFL did not take serious action on this situation until the season had finished. Many people would argue that because the case was dropped in court, that you should not expect the NFL to act, but this is not at all the case. The NFL Conduct policy states:
It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful. Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in the conviction of a crime.
The Carolina Panthers let it be known early in the offseason that they would not look to have Hardy return to the team. The Dallas Cowboys decided to give Hardy his second chance and signed him to a one-year, $11.3 million deal. Worth a lot more than your typical “prove it” deal, but that is the price tag when your issues are as a person rather than a player.
Hardy was eventually suspended for the first 10 games of 2015. This punishment was also appealed by Hardy and was heard by arbitrator Harold Henderson. Yet again, Hardy won. The NFL reduced his punishment from 10 games to four.
As a player who was given a pretty generous second chance by the league, you would expect Hardy to do his best to serve as a pillar to the community and keep his head down in the media. Just the opposite has occurred however.
Since he has started playing for the Cowboys he has made obscure comments to the media. Among those comments were out of place statements about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s wife. He followed that up saying that he hopes the Cowboys come out “gun’s blazing.” It is almost as if he wanted to make a mockery of the situation.
Hardy has also gotten into heated arguments with players in games and he even physically disrespected his coach by pushing and slapping his clipboard away from him. After the game Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called Hardy a “real leader” for the team.
Not only has he been called a leader, but the team has also expressed their desires to sign Hardy to a long-term contract. The Dallas Cowboys are taking a back seat to Hardy’s personality issues and appear to be hoping that this is another glossed over situation in the NFL rather than getting the man some help.
The reason this issue is being brought back up, even months after all decisions on the issue had been finalized is because, Deadspin has obtained and released the graphic images of the bruising and marks covering Nicole Holder’s body. The images are disturbing and make you wonder, not only how this man is making millions of dollars in the NFL, but how it can be that he is not in jail. ___
According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, “The NFL had access to these and other photos before issuing its suspension of the defensive end in April. But Cowboys officials, sources said, were not allowed to view the photos, several of which were under a protective order.”…..
People deserve second chances but people also need to own their mistakes first and pay for their actions. This not only goes for Greg Hardy but can also be said for the NFL.
We all need to be conscious of these issues, and so many others. The NFL is more heavily to blame for the problems in the athlete culture than any of the individual players are. When they turn a blind eye to these situations they are showing everyone where their priorities lie.
Most of us are not going to stop watching on Sunday’s because of these issues. Football is too heavily engrained into American culture at this point. The NFL controls far too much of the power in the sport to be taken off of their pedestal any time soon.
Just be wary of the issues that the NFL does their best to avoid addressing and speak out. Maybe someone will poke his or her head out from behind that shield and take serious action one day. But that day will never come if we are not consistently asking for it.