On June 15, 2014, a North Carolina judge found Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats. After the conviction, he filed for appeal and a jury trial, set for November.
In September Hardy, sentenced to 18 months probation, suited up and played during Carolina’s week one win over Tampa Bay.
Then, the Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice domestic abuse video surfaced and Hardy was placed on the commissioner’s “exempt list,” which allowed him to receive his $13.1 million salary while suspended from the NFL.
In February, the charges were dropped after the alleged victim, Nicole Holder, disappeared and was unable to be served a subpoena. The Dallas Cowboys subsequently signed him.
Even though Hardy has historically been a successful football player, the Cowboys should not have added him to the roster. By signing him, the Cowboys sent a very clear message: If we can make money off of you, we’re not worried about the threat you pose to society.
A comparable situation is that of Rice. He was also cleared to play in the NFL after his domestic abuse charge, but teams are not willing to touch him. The only difference between these two situations is that there was a video released. Hardy’s crime may have been worse.
The Cowboys signed a player who, according to court documents, was initially found guilty of choking a woman, dragging her across the floor and throwing her on a couch covered in loaded assault weapons while threatening to kill her. By adding Hardy to their roster, the Cowboys are condoning his actions — as long as he can play football pretty well.
It may seem unfair to bring so much attention to an individual, but that’s the reality of professional sports and employment in such a public domain. Former NBA superstar Charles Barkley said years ago, “I am not a role model.” He is wrong. Whether they intend it or not, athletes are in the public eye.
Every athlete is a public representation of his or her organization. Dallas’ perception just became much more negative.
There are ways Dallas can try and salvage the situation. One of the reasons NFL quarterback and former felon Michael Vick was able to reintegrate and successfully join an NFL team again was by doing a significant amount of work in the community. The Cowboys can do the same and require Hardy to do community service. He’s going to be around regardless; let him earn his reputation back.
NFL teams are only going to be as moral as the local community forces them to be. When it comes to bringing a dangerous individual into Dallas, the Cowboys should have thought twice.