Nothing really changed on the Greg Hardy front Friday save the selective outrage of those who need telegenic evidence to fuel their indignity.
Hardy’s affronts were well documented long before Deadspin got a hold of the pictures of an abused Nicole Holder, not so coincidentally shortly after all the charges against Hardy in North Carolina were expunged thanks to the fact the now Dallas Cowboys pass-rushing star paid his ex-girlfriend off to go away.
That’s salacious stuff and let’s make one thing clear for the readers who know nothing of nuance or subtlety: Hardy is a pariah and no NFL team should have went near him.
That said, there was no new evidence on Friday. The Mecklenburg County district attorney had access to those same pictures, along with seven more not in the case files, as did the NFL.
From a legal perspective, however, there isn’t much you can do if the victim refuses to testify. From the league’s standpoint, the pictures were part of the case against Hardy in which he was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list for 15 games last season and then suspended him for 10 in 2015, a penalty reduced to four games after a series of high-profile court losses set up a clear precedent for the league.
And if you want to be completely honest, the reality is that if Hardy wanted to fight the four-game suspension, the Adrian Peterson case was a pretty clear indication the defensive end was going to win in Federal Court.
So someone, somewhere in this mess decided Hardy needed to pay in the court of public opinion and leaked the photos to Diana Moskovitz, who did a wonderful job explaining just what a scumbag Hardy really is.
Maybe the casual NFL viewing audience, which has others things to do, needed Moskovitz’s work to come to that conclusion, but Jerry Jones certainly did not and the Cowboys owner made a calculated gamble that his brand was strong enough to withstand any scrutiny.
The Dallas Morning News first reported that the Cowboys hadn’t seen the photos before they signed Hardy and if that is the case, it was Jones playing the game of plausible deniability because he certainly would have been given access to them. By willfully staying away, however, it gives Jerry an out if things ever blow up to a degree he feels is untenable.
And that means sponsors.
Remember the torches and pitchforks came out in both the Ray Rice case and Peterson issue only when the public saw video in the Rice episode and photos in the Peterson mess. History is repeating itself with Hardy and Jones should be hurrying toward his escape pod.
Jones is a different breed, however and from the start of this ill-fated plan he was banking on the fact that no advertisers were going to flee the NFL’s marquee team and from that perspective, he’s probably right.
The worm turned in Minneapolis last season only when Radisson pulled out as a sponsor and others threatened to do the same. Carolina saw that and immediately distance itself from Hardy.
We all understand why Hardy’s getting a second chance — because he is good at what he does. If this is the 53rd guy on the roster, we aren’t even having this discussion because the player would have already be sentenced to obscurity. Even a “contributor” like Joseph Randle isn’t worth the extra headaches when controversy rears but a star is given a longer rope.
Hardy has done everything possible to hang himself with that slack until Jones saunters in and cuts him down.
“While we did not have access to the photos that became public today, we were and are aware of the serious nature of this incident,” Jones said in a statement. “We as an organization take this very seriously. We do not condone domestic violence. We entered into the agreement with Greg fully understanding that there would be scrutiny and criticism. We have given Greg a second chance. He is a member of our team and someone who is grateful for the opportunity he has been given to move forward with his life and his career.”
In summation, nothing has changed, save for that selective outrage.
For those of us who already poured through the police reports and court records, we didn’t need the photos, a hatred of the Dallas Cowboys, or the fact that Hardy is a high-profile athlete to ramp up our disgust.
Greg Hardy hits women and he’s no different than dozens off vagabonds in anytown, USA who do the same thing. And maybe the greatest punishment of all is not pretending he is.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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