Update (9/14): On Sunday morning, about an hour before game time, Hardy was deactivated by the Panthers. He will not play against the Lions, after all.
Original post: With Ray Rice kicked out of the league, and Adrian Peterson facing an uncertain legal future, the issue of domestic abuse among football players has never been under more scrutiny. Yet, this Sunday, defensive end Greg Hardy, will start for the Carolina Panthers against the Detroit Lions, despite being convicted of domestic abuse on July 15.
Since the the Baltimore Ravens dismissed Rice earlier this week after the release of a video showing Rice punching his then fiancee (now wife), Janay, in an elevator of an Atlantic City casino, a media firestorm has overtaken the NFL. In the wake of the video, many have sharply and publicly criticized the way in which the league handles domestic abuse cases. Rice was originally suspended just two games before the full video of the incident surfaced. Meanwhile, Hardy, who was actually convicted in a court of law, remains in the lineup.
When questioned about the reasons why, the Panthers have indicated that Hardy's case is still awaiting an appeal, and they would prefer to let the legal process play out before acting. However, that has never been a solid standard for NFL discipline. Many players have been cut from their teams over unresolved legal issues, including ten who were involved in domestic abuse cases. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games after merely being accused of sexual assault, and was never charged with a crime. And in Rice's case, his suspension was elevated from two games to "indefinite" despite no change in his legal status. The only new information, of course, was the video. There is no visual evidence of Hardy's crime.
Thrown into bathtub. Dragged by hair. Strangled. Machine Guns. Death threats. Jerry Richardson cries. Greg Hardy starts Sunday. Kudos OTL.— Mike Valenti (@MikeValenti971) September 12, 2014
According to police reports and evidence given by Nicole Holder (Hardy's ex-girlfriend), on the night of May 13 the defensive end threw her into a bathtub, tossed her onto a futon covered in assault rifles, put his hands around her throat, and threatened to kill her. Holder also said that the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Hardy ripped her necklace off, threw it into the toilet, and then proceeded to slam the lid on her arm when she tried to retrieve it. Hardy claims that it was Holder who hit him and continues to deny the charges.
"The court is entirely convinced Hardy is guilty of assault on a female and communicating threats," Judge Rebecca Thorn-Tin said after the testimony.
Hardy appealed the decision and is scheduled to return to court on November 17 for a second jury trial. Meanwhile, the Pro Bowler played in the season opener last Sunday. Despite not practicing on Wednesday for "personal reasons," amid rumors that he would be cut, he returned to the practice field on Thursday, and is expected to play this weekend.
The Charlotte Observer called for Hardy's suspension in an editorial on Tuesday, arguing that dismissing Rice while letting Hardy continue to play is hypocritical.
[The] reason Hardy still plays while star running back Ray Rice was cut from the Baltimore Ravens and suspended by the NFL indefinitely? Video. There is video of Rice knocking out his girlfriend but no video, so far, of Hardy dragging Holder by the hair and clutching her throat. Is that what it takes to do the right thing?"
Late on Friday, Adrian Peterson, a former NFL MVP, was indicted on child abuse charges. A Houston police report obtained by the media included photos of the child's injuries. Peterson was deactivated (though not actually suspended or released) and will not play this weekend. How the league chooses to handle his case will only underscore both the league's efforts to control its players off the field, and its inconsistent handling of violent cases when they do occur.