The NFL is still taking heat over domestic abuse problems. And, they should take heat for it. As they struggle to get a grip on the problem, basically their perceived problem of bad publicity, they continue to show just how inconsistent their policies on this issue really are. As you all know by now, Adrian Peterson was charged with negligent injury of a child for using a switch on his 4 year old son to discipline him. An arrest warrant was issued on Thursday. He voluntarily turned himself into law enforcement. The Minnesota Vikings deactivated him for Sunday’s game. But, they have reactivated him this week.
As usual, the NFL has done nothing yet. Besides doing nothing, the NFL hasn’t even said a word about it. They are apparently “investigating” the situation before making any announcement. Ray Rice is still suspended indefinitely, but he filed an appeal yesterday. In these two cases, the league is standing behind their “due process” language saying they really can’t do much until due process has been completed. There is another case in San Francisco against a 49er player for domestic abuse as well who played on Sunday night against the Bears.
Even if we buy into the “due process” argument, how can the NFL use that argument with Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers? Greg Hardy was accused of choking his then girlfriend and drug her around by the hair and threatened to kill her. Hardy was “convicted” in a one day bench trail in Charlotte. He received 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence for the misdemeanors he was charged with. He is appealing the decision and asking for a trial by jury. Yet, the Carolina Panthers waited until the last-minute to deactivate him. Even though he was deactivated to play Sunday, he was still paid by the team.
The Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, while accepting a civic award last week, began to cry while speaking about domestic violence. “When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple,” he told the audience in Charlotte. “To those who would suggest we’ve been too slow to act, I ask that you consider not to be too quick to judge.” At that time, Hardy was still eligible to play.
What is the major difference in all of these cases? The Ray Rice incident had video. The Adrian Peterson incident has pictures and tweets from Peterson. The Hardy case and the one in San Francisco have neither video or pictures or tweets. As a result, the NFL can hide behind their “due process” garbage without too much public outrage because there isn’t anything to show what happened.
I was particularly struck watching the pre-game shows on Sunday. The one I was really interested in was the NBC pre-game show because it had Tony Dungy on it. Dungy talked about how he “asked his players to be honest with him” when he had situations come up with Colts players. He bragged about how they let one player go and punished another. If I had been able to ask a question of him, I would have asked about the “distractions” these cases brought to the team. Remember, Dungy said he would not draft an openly gay player because he didn’t want to put up with the “distractions” that would bring.
On Monday night football on ESPN, they had the audacity to question Ray Lewis about his thoughts about domestic violence. I say the audacity because it was Ray Lewis, former player for the Ravens, who was wrapped up in a murder one Super Bowl Sunday. He only escaped being part of the defense in an agreement to testify against those involved. I would think that would sort of disqualify his opinion on domestic violence.
When it comes to handling social issues, this conflict shows exactly why the NFL can’t seem to handle these problems. The NFL is not alone in this problem either. They have a very willing partner in the NFLPA. The NFLPA is very willing to negotiate punishments in their contract for things like drug use or performance enhancing drugs, yet they are loathsome to negotiate punishments for Domestic Violence. The NFLPA is backing Ray Rice in his appeal and have remained silent on the Hardy incident, as well as others.
It has been suggested that any player who is arrested for domestic violence be deactivated, with pay, throughout the “due process”. That is an idea that I support. Players should not be allowed to participate in activities until their cases are resolved one way or the other. By deactivating them they do not lose any money. That takes away the argument of punishing them before their case is resolved.
But, in the Hardy case, there already has been a conviction. So why is the NFL dragging its feet? “If the NFL is saying there hasn’t been disposition (of the case), I think they’re ducking the issue,” Belmont Abbey law professor Steve Ward told Sports Illustrated. Ward, who is a former prosecutor in Charlotte, North Carolina, told SI that fewer than 5% of bench trials are appealed and Hardy is manipulating the system.
We all know that football is a violent sport. But, that does not mean that it needs to be filled with men who abuse their family members. The type of violence on the football field is not comparative to domestic violence. Beating someone up is hardly the same as tackling a running back. The league has a long roster of players who are what some would call “model citizens.” It is this majority of players that are being disrespected by the NFL and the NFLPA.
The NFL and the NFLPA are going to keep their heads in the sand on this issue simply because deactivating these players, some of whom are vital pieces of their teams success, will only hurt the bottom line of their product. And, until sponsors start saying enough is enough, the league will continue it pathetic path of inconsistent policy in these matters.