Being born into a family of die-hard New York Giants fans means I’ve been surrounded by all things football my whole life. Every Sunday I would go to my dad’s house with my older brother, and we’d watch the Giants run up and down the field as we cheered, hugged and jumped for joy at every impossible catch, touchdown and sack. I am no stranger to the game of football, and I really love it, but as I’m getting older, I’m realizing how messed up the NFL really is when it comes to punishing players who break the law.
There have been over 700 players arrested in the past 15 years in the NFL, and many of those cases end up being dropped because of the players’ wealth and fame, along with the organizations lax rules and ability to overlook and forgive player’s crimes in order to continue making money.
In 2014, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested on charges of domestic violence against his then-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. Hardy was accused of assaulting and threatening to kill Holder during a fight that May. Hardy apparently pushed Holder to the ground, choked her and threw her onto a futon with loaded firearms, including assault rifles and shotguns. Hardy bragged that all the guns were loaded, said Holder, who suffered bruises and swelling from the incident.
Surely, this man must be in jail now, right? Nope. Hardy was held in jail for 24 hours, then released on a $17,000 bond, but that’s merely spare change in the $11.3 million he’s making from his new, one-year contract he signed with the Dallas Cowboys this past March.
Eventually, Hardy’s case was dropped because Holder cut off contact with her lawyer and refused to testify. However, many say Hardy paid off Holder in order to bring the situation to an end. Now Hardy is back on the field after serving a miniscule four-game suspension that was reduced from the original 10. Hardy probably didn’t mind sitting out because he was still being paid increments of his $11 million from Dallas the whole time.
There have been tons of cases like Hardy’s, where players serve an insignificant punishment then come back and show absolutely no change in their demeanor or character.
I’m sure many remember the frightening video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice surfacing in February 2014 showing a graphic attack on his then fiancée, Janay Palmer. Rice punched Palmer in the face and dragged her out of an elevator without remorse. Rice was suspended for only two games and is still playing in the NFL now.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beat his 4-year-old son with a switch, which is a thin rod or branch used for whipping, in Sept ember 2014 in an attempt to “discipline” him. Peterson never served jail time and also still plays today.
Many times, after players serve their minor punishments, they return to the sport unapologetic and clearly unchanged.
On Oct. 11, Hardy returned to football and showed everyone how he learned absolutely nothing from his suspension and is the same jerk he was before. His first day back, Hardy said some pretty stupid things, one specifically about Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bündchen, a Brazilian fashion model.
“I love seeing Tom Brady. You seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game,” Hardy said.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month for crying out loud, and the NFL wants fans to believe the organization gives a damn about the well-being of women because their players wear pink socks and sweatbands? The NFL has shown their indifference toward domestic violence cases time and time again, and it makes me question how much they actually care about women.
I’m certainly not saying every player is a womanizing, law-breaking piece of garbage, but a lot of players who have the most attention and make the most money seem to share this quality.
Hardy also said before the game he would be coming out “guns blazing,” another poor choice of words on his behalf considering he’s still on thin ice in the eyes of the NFL and the fans.
The NFL continues giving second chances to the most undeserving people, and it’s leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of fans. How are we supposed to stand by the NFL and their teams if they’re letting unworthy people walk out on the field every Sunday?
The job of the NFL should be to ensure that only the highest quality players can take the field and lead their teams to victory. I look forward to Sundays every week, and I want to watch games and know I’m rooting for good people.
Email Laura Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org