The NFL has an implied message for Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy: Your face paint is a violation of league rules; your assault on your ex-girlfriend and your threat to kill her is not.
The league warned Hardy and the Panthers last week that he would be fined if he donned the face paint he often uses to bring alive his alter ego, “The Kraken.” His conviction on assault charges? Not a problem.
So on Sunday, Number 76 is expected to line up at defensive end against the Detroit Lions in front of 70,000-plus cheering fans. He will be paid approximately $800,000 for playing in that one game. And he will play for a team and in a stadium in which the public feels it has a personal stake, including $87 million in taxes for things like a new video scoreboard where fans can see Greg Hardy up close.
They won’t see the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder as up close as Nicole Holder did. Holder, the Observer reported in July, testified that Hardy “flung her from the bed, threw her into a bathtub, then tossed her on a futon covered with rifles. Holder said Hardy ripped a necklace he had given her off her neck, threw it into a toilet and slammed the lid on her arm when she tried to fish it out. (Hardy) dragged her by the hair room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat” and threatening to kill her.
There was enough evidence that police arrested Hardy, the district attorney agreed to prosecute and a judge convicted him.
Yet the NFL and the Carolina Panthers have issued zero punishment. “We have just learned of the verdict and are respectful of the process,” the team said after Hardy’s conviction.
Hardy has appealed his conviction, which will likely be heard, conveniently, after this season ends. But the reason Hardy still plays while star running back Ray Rice was cut from the Baltimore Ravens and suspended by the NFL indefinitely? Video. There is video of Rice knocking out his girlfriend but no video, so far, of Hardy dragging Holder by the hair and clutching her throat. Is that what it takes to do the right thing?
The Ravens, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and everyone involved are being skewered for waiting until a second video emerged before doing what they should have done long ago. Rice was suspended for just two games before TMZ released the second incriminating video Monday.
Now the Panthers risk their reputation and owner Jerry Richardson jeopardizes his moral credibility by covering for a player convicted of assaulting a female. The Panthers can say they are letting the legal process play out, but it appears they just want to bulk up their pass rush. If Hardy’s conviction is overturned, the Panthers could reinstate him at that time.
The Panthers should suspend him, and fans at Sunday’s game should turn their backs when Hardy takes the field. Because applauding Rice’s suspension while cheering for Hardy is the height of hypocrisy.
Jerry Richardson has shown himself to be a man of character with the highest standards for his players. Now comes one of his biggest tests.