I woke up Monday morning to an alert on my phone. It should have been surprising news, but unfortunately it was just the same old news. An NFL player, this time Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, saw his domestic violence charges dropped.
Hardy joined the long list of NFL players who, in just the past year, have either faced charges of domestic violence and subsequently had some or all of them dropped, or didn’t face charges at all after accusations of domestic violence. You may have heard of some of the players that Hardy joined on that list: Ray McDonald, Jonathan Dwyer, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Yes, that Adrian Peterson and that Ray Rice.
Hardy’s charges were dropped after the accuser in the case was uncooperative, according to the Charlotte District Attorney’s office. The accuser failed to show up for the first hearing in the appeal of Hardy’s 2014 conviction. However, the district attorney said it had “reliable information” that Hardy and his accuser reached a settlement.
In other words: money talks, and when you have a lot of it, people listen.
In McDonald’s domestic violence case, the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office cited insufficient evidence when it elected not to file charges against the San Francisco 49ers defensive end.
In Dwyer’s case, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, but the rest of his charges were dropped by the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.
Peterson avoided jail time by pleading no contest in a Texas court to one count of misdemeanor reckless assault.
Then there was Rice’s case, one that proved to be the epitome of how the legal system gives athletes preferential treatment. Rice rejected a plea deal and applied for a 12-month pretrial intervention program that would facilitate the dropping of all of his charges and wipe the case clean off his record.
With that said, the chances were slim that Rice would be accepted into the program, which is generally offered in cases that don’t involve violence, according to New Jersey’s pretrial intervention Web page. Rice’s case was, of course, very violent.
According to an Outside the Lines report last September, there were a total of 15,029 assault cases from 2010 to 2013 in New Jersey, the state in which Ray Rice assaulted his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator. Out of those cases, only 70 ended in the defendant entering the pretrial program. That amounts to less than 1 percent of domestic violence cases in the state.
Rice, of course, was accepted.
The truth of the matter is, to be part of that 1 percent, it has to be a special case. Anybody who watched the elevator surveillance video that showed Rice punching Palmer knows that this was not a special case in any way. The violence was extreme and the punishment was anything but.
We’ve all seen the stats and we all know that domestic violence — and violence in general — is a problem amongst NFL players, but why has this problem gone unsolved for so many years?
If the justice system is going to favor the rich and famous like it seemingly always has, then the NFL has to do its part in policing its players.
To its credit, the NFL introduced a new personal conduct policy in December after heavy public criticism in the aftermath of the Rice and Peterson incidents. According to the new policy, players will now face a six-game suspension without pay for any violations involving “assault, battery, domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence.”
Even if the player is not charged or found guilty of the crime, the new policy says that the player will still face serious discipline.
The new policy isn’t a bad start, but is the NFL really trying to tell us that if one of its players is charged with hitting his girlfriend, son, fiancée, daughter or wife, he’s just going to be held out for a month and a half?
Six games. Six weeks. A month and a half. That’s what Roger Goodell and company learned from Rice and Peterson?
Imagine if this new policy was in place last season. How uncomfortable would it have been watching Joe Flacco handing the ball off to Rice in the Ravens’ week seven game against the Falcons in October?
How uncomfortable is it going to be next season when we watch Hardy chase quarterbacks around the field, or Peterson run through defenses?
To some fans it may be uncomfortable, but apparently not many fans were put off by last season’s incidents.
Super Bowl XLIX delivered the highest TV ratings in Super Bowl history, according to NBC Sports. Even the NFL’s poorly rated playoff games are more watched than almost anything else on TV.
As long as fans keep watching on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays, the NFL will continue to operate in status quo without making any significant changes.
After all, winning is everything in sports, and the NFL just can’t seem to lose.