Inside the Panthers

Tone-deaf Greg Hardy promotion by Indoor Football League team makes me want to scream

Former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy wants another shot at playing football, and an Indoor Football League team in Utah is considering giving him one.
Former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy wants another shot at playing football, and an Indoor Football League team in Utah is considering giving him one. AP

It doesn’t surprise me that a football team somewhere is considering giving former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy a shot at playing again.

But I would not have believed a team would be so blatantly ignorant while doing so.

The Salt Lake (Utah) Screaming Eagles, an Indoor Football League team, are considering signing former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy, and presented the fans with a vote as to whether to do so. The team described Hardy’s opportunity in a statement, published on the team’s website from the Screaming Eagles Ownership Group, for which I have provided editorial asides.

The team presented the fan vote regarding whether to sign Hardy as “one of the most unique FANchise voting decisions you will ever face.”

(Read: Though this franchise is documented in letting fans make decisions, and even some play calls, in this case it is an easy way out of corporate blame, should this backfire or receive public backlash. “But the fans decided...”)

The statement immediately lists Hardy’s football accomplishments, and describes “off-the-field issues,” including his arrest in 2014 for “allegedly assaulting his girlfriend (the misdemeanor charges were later dropped)” and includes Hardy’s arrest in 2016 on charges of cocaine possession following a brief stint with the Cowboys. These were described, with little detail, as “past allegations and arrests.”

(Read: Then with the Carolina Panthers, Hardy spent all but one game in 2014 on the commissioner’s exempt list after being arrested on domestic-violence charges for allegedly assaulting an ex-girlfriend. He was then found guilty of assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Disturbing photos were released of the incident by Deadspin, showing extensive bruising to her back, jaw and feet. The charges were eventually dropped because the woman, Nicole Holder, could not be found by the court to testify after Hardy’s lawyer’s appealed for a jury trial. The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office said at the time it had “reliable information” that Holder reached a civil settlement with Hardy that was directly related to what happened inside Hardy’s condo on May 13, 2014. The statement provided by the Screaming Eagles Ownership Group included none of these details – including facts about Hardy’s conviction – and did not use the words “domestic violence” once.)

The statement continues by again illustrating Hardy’s football prowess, describing him as a “physically gifted pass-rusher” and describing a “week” full of speaking with Hardy and “many of his former teammates and coaches,” and maintaining that, should the “fans vote to allow him,” the team’s “ownership, management and coaches are in unanimous agreement.”

(Read: One week is definitely enough time to get to know a man with this kind of history. Sure.)

“On the field, Greg would be a no-questions-asked signee for just about any coach in any league,” said Screaming Eagles head coach Matthew Sauk. “Greg is human and made some mistakes in his life and is paying for those mistakes.”

(Read: The coach wants to win football games.)

Then, the statement becomes persuasive in tone.

“Hardy, 28 years old, was very recently considered one of the best defensive players in the NFL,” it reads. “He made millions in the league; he will make hundreds in the IFL. He is not doing this for the money; he just wants to play football and show the type of person he is both on and off the field. If all goes well, he hopes to have a chance to play again on Sundays.”

(Read: Are you kidding me? Playing football for less money makes him a sympathetic figure?)

Finally, the statement encourages fans to make an “NFL-caliber decision” and says “his fate is in your (the fans’) hands.”

(Read: Actually, Hardy’s fate has always been in his own hands. This is a marketing ploy which at its foundation is a pathetic attempt to attract sympathy for a man who has continued to defy the law and discard the many chances given to him. It is dripping with persuasive rhetoric touting his skill on the field and falls far short of describing the toxicity Hardy has displayed time and again. It attempts to assure fans that because Hardy will not make as much money playing in the IFL, it means his intentions and character are pure. It encourages fans to “do their own research on the topic – further pushing away both Hardy’s accountability and their own.)

The Screaming Eagles Ownership Group on Wednesday responded to a request for comment. Both public relations spokesman Bryan Kirsch and team co-owner Ray Austin said “by no means are we putting him up there to promote domestic violence. We don't believe in that.”

When asked why the team provided loose and at times non-factual information about Hardy’s domestic-assault conviction in the statement when asking for fans’ consideration, and then encouraging fans to “do their own research,” Austin said the team wanted to be as transparent as possible and seemed unaware of the inaccuracies in the statement.

“We are going to have that corrected,” said Kirsch. “We got that language probably from an Internet source and maybe it was worded wrong. That's an apology on our part. We just want to make sure, we're not encouraging troubled players, we're not trying to highlight domestic violence here.”

Voting closes at 1 a.m. on Thursday.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @jourdanrodrigue