It’s happening. Again.
After being granted an appeal against his charges and serving a four-game suspension from the NFL, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted earlier of assaulting and threatening to kill ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder in July 2014, was reinstated to the league last month.
His crimes? Forgotten. The NFL had seemingly done its part, even conducting its own investigation after Hardy’s case was dismissed, and the issue was put on the sidelines.
That is, until last week, when Deadspin released 48 damning photos documenting the extent of Holder’s injuries.
This series of events is not unfamiliar. Suddenly—and not surprisingly—the NFL looks foolish once again. An athlete is accused of domestic violence, the charges garner little attention until visual evidence of the assault is released, and the league tries to bring down its hammer harder than it attempted to initially.
As someone who has been an avid sports fan for eleven years and has been covering it for four, I could easily join the rest of the world in criticizing the Dallas Cowboys for continuing to support Hardy despite his monstrous actions.
I could condemn and denounce owner Jerry Jones for calling Hardy a “leader” even after jawing with coaches and teammates on the sidelines earlier in the year.
I could whine and complain about the NFL’s lack of severe punishment policies, could berate the league’s players for remaining silent on the issue. I could call for Hardy’s banishment from the league and say that we, as fans and supporters of the game, deserve better than a coward on the field.
But that’s the thing: we don’t.
This is the state of the league. This is the “football fraternity” that has failed year after year to respond quickly and effectively against domestic violence. This is Roger Goodell, the commissioner who will fine players for wanting to honor lost relatives yet hesitate to expel a superstar from the field despite criminal charges.
This is the price we are willing to let every victim of domestic abuse pay, putting their scars and bruises in the background, so we can spend our Sundays cheering for some of the very athletes who caused their suffering.
This is Greg Hardy, and this is what we deserve.
Yes, banishing Hardy from the league is an easy decision to make. Unlike ex-Ravens running back Ray Rice, who has been unemployed since the league suspended him in 2014 for similar domestic violence charges, Hardy has failed to express any sort of remorse for his actions, changing his twitter profile to declare his innocence before being told by his coaches not to.
He’s vile. Disgusting. Repulsive.
Yet, in the same manner Hardy represents everything we shouldn’t be, he represents everything we currently are. He’s not the “hero” we need but the “hero” we deserve.
Because how else would we realize that we place virtues second to victory when it comes to sports? Who else is better suited to show us that we accept someone being a good player as an excuse for them to being a terrible person?
Letting Hardy go would mean that we can go back to pretending that the NFL is tough on domestic violence, that we can return to cheering for our favorite teams without reservation and hating the Cowboys for simply being the Cowboys. Excommunicating him from the league would be our easy way back to living a healthy football life as if none of this ever happened.
So long as that continues to be our goal, Hardy should remain as our “savior.” There should be no escape, no exit, no way out. This is who we are. This is our reality.
Vile. Disgusting. Repulsive. Just like Hardy.
But who knows: maybe someday we’ll learn our lesson. Maybe we’ll wake up and realize that, while none of us may be guilty, we still share part of the blame.
Maybe there will be a day when we refuse to forget, when we do more than just watch. There may come a time when the hero we need is the one we truly deserve.
For now, this is what we get.