In February 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punched his wife in the face and then dragged her unconscious body out of an elevator. A grand jury indicted Rice on third-degree aggravated assault.
Star Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy makes Ray Rice look like a beaming symbol of human decency. At least Rice has shown remorse.
Hardy, who threw his ex-girlfriend against a futon of assault rifles and shotguns, strangled her and threatened to kill her, has no regrets. To the contrary, he’s laughing it up.
In his first media session since the event Hardy said that he hoped to come out ‘guns blazing’ on the weekend. He said that he hoped Tom Brady’s wife came to the game with her sister and her friends. When asked what he learnt from the ordeal, Hardy replied that he learnt that he was a great pass rusher when he put his mind to it.
The whole situation is a farce – some sort of sick, twisted joke – only the punch-line is strangulation.
Hardy missed nearly all of last season while his court case was pending, collecting the entirety of his $13.1 million salary in the process on a ‘paid leave of absence’ from the NFL. He was found guilty by a judge of assault but walked because of a convoluted technicality in the North Carolina legal system.
The NFL conducted its own investigation and also found Hardy guilty, writing in its findings that his ex-girlfriend was severely traumatised and there was evidence of bruises and scratches on her neck, shoulders, upper chest, arms and feet resulting from Hardy’s attacks. They suspended him for 10 games, which an arbiter then reduced to four games.
This debacle isn’t just about Hardy. Some human beings are just garbage people and Hardy is obviously one of them. But this runs deeper. This is institutional – a series of bizarre, disgusting missteps throughout an array of systems that all failed to deliver anything resembling justice.
The legal system couldn’t punish Hardy because of a ludicrous procedural quirk in North Carolina law that allows those found guilty in bench trials to immediately appeal and be granted a jury trial. Shockingly, the traumatised domestic violence victim was mildly concerned about testifying in front of a jury and disappeared, so Hardy walked.
After Hardy was found guilty in the bench trial the Carolina Panthers still let him play in the first week of last season. They were fine with letting a deranged criminal take the field for them because hey, you’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback.
Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys then found it in their hearts to give Hardy an $11.3 million contract this off-season. When asked this week about Hardy’s comments to the press, Jones backed him up, talking about how the attractiveness of Brady’s wife showed “what an outstanding individual Tom is”.
You can’t make this stuff up.
The NFL Players Association has stood by their man the whole way. The NFLPA fought to reduce Hardy’s initial suspension and then when asked about Hardy’s recent comments one of their spokespeople issued a statement saying: “We prefer media pay more attention to players recognised for their good deeds.”
In other words, don’t sweat it about the strangulation and the assault rifles, let’s get some more photos out there of Peyton Manning saving cats in trees.
The NFLPA probably doesn’t have to worry about the media though. Reporters aren’t overly focused on asking Hardy about his lack of contrition or whether he knows he’s an abomination of a person. No, they’d rather ask him whether he thinks Blake Bortles’ wife is hot.
The NFL is arguably the least complicit party in contributing to this mess, and when the NFL is the least complicit party you know you’re in trouble. The league did try to suspend Hardy for 10 games but 10 games was never going to be sufficient. Not for a guy who responds to domestic assault charges by making (comically bad) rap videos prefaced by gunshots saying “It’ll be a hot day in hell before your girl tries to play me”.
The league should not have let Hardy back on the field, or at the very least they should have shown some semblance of conviction in trying to keep him off it. The NFL went to federal court in a desperate bid to enforce a suspension against Brady for maybe deflating a football. Hardy deflated a woman’s neck and the NFL meekly stood by as his suspension was cut in half.
The court, the NFL, the media, the Carolina Panthers, the Dallas Cowboys, the NFLPA… all these institutions failed to punish Hardy, they failed to keep a monster off the field. They decided to give him more than $24 million and a national platform to perform instead.
The overt reasons for why they failed are numerous – procedural technicalities, financial motivations and impotent pretences of power are among them. But there’s a single, more insidious reason why Hardy was allowed to take the field on Sunday and will do so again next week:
Nobody cared enough to stop him.
If you can get away from offensive linemen and tackle the quarterback, we’ll let you get away with strangling your girlfriend. Justice, morality and common human decency can easily be made vulnerable to the importance of ‘winning football games on Sunday’. That’s a trade-off the Panthers and Cowboys were happy to make. Transcendent athletic ability more than compensates for a bone-dry moral dipstick.
In the context of this farce, this comical catastrophe of ignorance and indifference, Katie Nolan put it best: What are we f*cking doing?
— Garbage Time (@GarbageTime) October 8, 2015
Right before he threw her against a futon covered in assault rifles, Hardy allegedly yelled at his ex-girlfriend: ‘Do you want to see crazy? I’ll show you crazy!’.
Everything since that moment has been a demonstration of crazy. A man found guilty of strangling a woman and threatening to kill her with military weapons underneath her is rewarded with millions of dollars and thundering applause on a Sunday.
All thanks to a confederacy of dunces.