Greg Hardy and the NFL’s Silent Majority: It’s Time Players Spoke Up
There is only one force in the world powerful enough to enact change in the National Football League, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not the commissioner, the courts, the corporate sponsors or even the paying customers. It’s the players.
Football fans – and, really, anyone with a conscience – are beside themselves yet again, after the release of gruesome photos that showed the aftermath of Greg Hardy’s assault on then-girlfriend Nicole Holder. These days, it is apparently not enough to merely know acts of violence occurred (Hardy was arrested in May 2014, and his domestic violence chargers weren’t dismissed until February); we must now see the end results first-hand in order to be appropriately outraged. After all, it took the blowback caused by the infamous Ray Rice elevator video for the NFL to decide his actions apparently warranted more than their initial two-game ban.
But where has all that outrage gotten us? Despite predictions that the Rice case would doom the NFL, the league has never been more popular. Revenue is up, TV ratings are at an all-time high and advertising during games is more expensive than ever. We, the consumers, have a funny way of displaying our moral outrage, don’t we?
So if there is to be meaningful change in the way the NFL does business, in its acceptance of misfits and monsters, it’s not going to come from any of us. It has to come from within. It has to come from the players and the union that represents them.
Think back to this summer in the thick of the “Deflategate” controversy. It was the NFL Players Association that got Tom Brady off the hook. That legal soap opera, as unappealing and as annoying as it became, exhibited the full power of the union against the NFL. For it was the union that hammered Brady’s four-game suspension down to nothing, same as it broke the indefinite suspension shackled on Rice, the ban imposed on Adrian Peterson and oh, yes, the 10-game suspension Hardy was originally sentenced to for beating his ex-girlfriend before the union came in and chopped it down to four games.
Since Hardy returned to the NFL he’s been a train wreck. He’s offered zero remorse, save for some tweets over the weekend after the pictures of his handiwork were made public by Deadspin. He’s offered some prickly interviews with the media, talked about coming out with guns blazing, made some comments about Brady’s wife, engaged in a physical altercation on the sideline with a special teams coach and got into a heated argument with teammate Dez Bryant. To the untrained eye, Hardy has shown a long line of troublesome behavior, but Dallas owner Jerry Jones continues to come out in support of his most volatile athlete. He’s called Hardy a leader and an inspiration, which has got to be incredibly insulting to actual team leaders and inspiring characters like Tony Romo and Jason Witten and even Bryant, who survived a hellish upbringing to make it all the way to the NFL.
Yet, those guys have remained relatively silent, with Romo even offering tepid support for Hardy. Just like Rice’s teammates and Peterson’s teammates and even Aaron Hernandez’s teammates. Until that silence is broken, nothing will ever change.
CBS analyst Bill Cowher piled on with the rest of the talking heads this weekend, but he made an excellent point when he said, “Ninety-nine percent of the players in National Football League, they get it. Greg Hardy doesn’t get it.”
He’s right. Most NFL players don’t get arrested or beat on women or endanger the welfare of kids or wind up in jail. So where are their voices? Aren’t they ashamed? Aren’t they angry that their reputation is being slandered by a small minority of bad guys? This has got to be the saddest example of a silent majority in history.
Stand up and say something already. Better yet, do something already.