Image from Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Tomorrow, millions of people across the country will be enjoying a Thanksgiving feast and many of them, at the same time, will tune-in to watch at least one of the three NFL games being played in the national spotlight. At 4:30 Est, “America’s Team”, the Dallas Cowboys will square off against the undefeated Carolina Panthers. It should be a very interesting game to watch; the Cowboys have to win to keep their playoff dreams alive. It’s also going to be an interesting matchup to watch because, Greg Hardy will be playing defensive end for the Cowboys, lining up against his former team, the Panthers. Hardy owns the Panthers franchise records for most sacks in a single game (4) and most sacks in season (‘15).
In March 2014, after his record setting season, Hardy signed a one-year tender with the Panthers guaranteeing him $13.1 million dollars. Two months later, Hardy was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend, Nicole Holder. Multiple reports have said Hardy threw his girlfriend against a tile bathtub wall, slammed the toilet seat on her arm multiple times, dragged her by her hair and tossed her on a futon covered in assault rifles, where he choked and threatened to kill her. Because of the way the situation unfolded it turned into a “he said, she said” war with both individuals having very different accounts of what happened.
Now if we move forward a bit, on September 8th of the same year, America had a tangible dose of how real domestic violence truly is when a video was released showing Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, punching his girlfriend in the face in an elevator. Rice was suspended indefinitely and dropped from his team, (and has yet to play again). Within nine days of the video’s release, Hardy was deactivated and placed on the “commissioner’s exempt list.” The same exempt list that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was added to on September 10th after allegations arose that he beat his 4-year-old son with a switch. The exemption list that both of these players were placed on is a discretionary suspension list that only the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, has the authority to place a player on, and is reserved for players dealing with “unusual circumstances.” I do agree with the commissioner on the Hardy situation. A 6-foot-4, 290-pound man throwing a 120-pound woman on a futon full of assault rifles is a rather unusual situation. In case you are wondering, all players placed on this special list are paid in full.
On July 15th Hardy was convicted on misdemeanor charges of communicating threats and assaulting a female and was sentenced to 18 months probation, suspending a 60-day jail sentence. Hardy immediately appealed the decision and requested a jury trial, which was scheduled for November 17th. The jury trial never happened because it was said that Nicole Holder would “no longer cooperate” with authorities. It turned out that she and Hardy reached an outside settlement. An outside settlement in which Hardy likely paid an absorbent amount of money to Nicole for her to no longer move forward with the trial.
Hardy’s first game of the season came against the New England Patriots. In his press conferences leading up to the game, Hardy displayed little to no remorse for his actions and actually was pompous enough to slight other NFL players’ wives. When asked about Tom Brady, Hardy said, ““Have you seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game, all her friends come to the game. One of my favorite games of the year.” Then shortly after, with a rather odd comment from a reporter, Hardy was asked if he was aware of how attractive local Jaguar Blake Bortles’ wife was to which he responded, "Is she … this kind of information is important. That's how I select my Pro Bowls.” These garbage comments represent the garbage player that the Cowboys signed. Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has called Hardy a “true leader.” Maybe Jones is right about Hardy, if the only thing we are considering is whether or not the odds of the Cowboys reaching the playoffs greatly improve as a result of Hardy's inclusion.
With an incentive laden contract Hardy is the fourth highest paid player at his position in the entire league. Hardy’s signing while his domestic assault case was pending is a true representation of the “win at all costs” mentality that is at the core of the NFL.
Ray Rice was originally suspended for two games, and then once the video surfaced he was essentially exiled from the league. Many people feel that he won’t be picked up by another team because teams are not willing to take on the publicity storm for a now mediocre player. A few weeks ago pictures were released of the injuries Nicole Holder sustained the night of the assault, and because Greg Hardy is anything short of mediocre, he was not dropped from the team, and instead he will be playing on Thanksgiving.
Just to leave some food for thought; the NFL released their season schedule a month after Hardy signed with the Cowboys, and had his ten game suspension been enforced, his first game back would have been in the prime time spotlight, tomorrow, against his former team.
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