Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy played in Week 1 after a judge found him guilty in July of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend.The woman, Nicole Holder, claimed ina domestic violence protective orderthat Hardy beat her on the night of May 13. She said in the complaint (via Channel 9):
“Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms, and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns.”
At Hardy’s trial, Holder testified, “I was so scared I wanted to die.”
A Mecklenburg County judge found Hardy guilty, sentencing him to 18 months probation. So why isn’t the NFL doing anything? Why is Hardy allowed to go on playing while Ray Rice has been banished?
Still, it’s not clear why Hardy is allowed to go on playing while Ray Rice has been banished.
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, who’s a former lawyer, has the answer in a post on Thursday. He explains that the league isn’t punishing Hardy yet because his criminal case is still technically open, despite the guilty verdict.
Hardy appealed for a jury trial in superior court, which essentially granted him a new trial. He was given a court date in November, but his lawyer told the Charlotte Observer that he doesn’t expect the jury trial to begin until next year — after the conclusion of the 2014 NFL season.
“Hardy’s case remains unresolved in the legal system. Sure, he was found guilty in a bench trial, before a judge. But that’s simply part of the convoluted criminal procedure in North Carolina, which gives him what the lawyers call a trial de novo before a jury. It all happens from scratch, a fresh bite at the apple. Innocent until proven guilty.”
The Hardy situation highlights a hole in the league’s new domestic violence policy. While commissioner Roger Goodell says there is “a mandatory evaluation” when a player gets charged in a domestic violence case, the NFL almost always waits to punish players under the Personal Conduct Policy until criminal proceedings have played out.
Players don’t have to be found guilty in a court of law in order to be punished by the league, according to the Personal Conduct Policy, but the NFL typically waits to hand down its ruling until after the justice system does.
You can see why the NFL does this. Players have the right to due process. But it also creates an uncomfortable waiting period (that can potentially last an entire season) where a player charged in domestic violence case goes on playing while the NFL does nothing.
We’ve reached out to the NFL and are awaiting their response.
ESPN commentator Steve Young floated an interesting plan to get around this problem on Monday Night Football. He said that players accused of domestic violence should be suspended with pay until the legal process plays itself out. Here’s his plan:
“We have to make an affirmative stand on it. I saw what we did with the policy a couple of weeks ago, but then Ray MacDonald gets arrested. And has physical bruising on his wife and felony domestic violence. Any company in this country, any big company, if that happens they send you home. They might pay you. But you don’t come to work until we figure this out.
“You have to have no tolerance on it and mean it. If it’s a fraudulent assertion, then they will work it out over a few days and weeks and you’ll miss a couple of games. OK. We’ve got to have a policy where, if you get arrested for this, we’ll call you when we figure it out. But we’re going to call you from home. It just has to be that way or you’re not serious about it.”
Right now that’s not what happens. And in the midst of one of the worst embarrassments in league history, a player who’s been found guilty of assault on a woman is immune to punishment right now because of his case’s complicated legal status.
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