NFL Finds New Way to Botch an Abuse Case
The National Football League has reached an agreement with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office in North Carolina to view seven photographs of the woman former Carolina Panthers Greg Hardy's was charged with assaulting in May 2014. This should expedite the league's decision on whether Hardy, who has been sidelined on the commissioner's exempt list, can suit up for the Dallas Cowboys next season. But what does it say about the league finally taking domestic abuse seriously?
On the one hand, you could view this as the NFL learning from one of its biggest missteps in its investigation of Ray Rice: failing, whether willfully or not, to procure the damning elevator video showing him knocking his girlfriend unconscious. At least this time the NFL didn't ignore the existence of the visual evidence, which were apparently not in the case file the police handed to the league in February. According to the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person, the photos depict injuries and were used in Hardy's first trial, a bench trial, in which a judge found him guilty. The charges against Hardy were dropped when his victim didn't appear at his appeal trial.
Then again, it's typical that harrowing testimony from the victim and even a guilty verdict weren't enough evidence for the league -- or the Cowboys, who signed the defensive end to a one-year deal last month -- to discipline Hardy. As ESPN's Sarah Spain tweeted, "No videos/photos, no one seems to care." That a judge validated the victim's account that Hardy choked her and threw her onto "a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns" apparently doesn't convey enough brutality to warrant punishment. (The NFL also apparently obtained photos of the guns, because "assault rifles" can be interpreted so many different ways without photographic evidence.)
In that sense, I tend to agree with Deadspin's Tom Ley, who writes that the NFL's desire to procure these photos isn't about due diligence or "getting it right" -- it's about optics. "The question the NFL is trying to answer isn't 'Did Greg Hardy beat his ex-girlfriend?' but rather 'How bad will we look if these pictures become public without us seeing them, and our punishment is deemed to have been too light?'" Ley writes.
And that's where we are: even when a player is found guilty, he'll escape serious punishment so long as he didn't leave enough marks on his victim's face. When it comes to domestic violence, a picture is worth so much more than a thousand words.
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