Scott Fowler

Jeff Taylor’s apology is a start

Jeff Taylor really messed up a couple of months ago in Michigan.

He drank heavily. He shoved a woman. He punched a hole in a hotel wall. He was belligerent and uncooperative when the cops showed up.

The Charlotte Hornet reserve forward admitted to all those mistakes Monday, delivering an apology that sounded both remorseful and real.

"I own what I did," Taylor said in an eight-minute news conference in which he answered questions about the Sept.25 incident for the first time. "I take full responsibility for it."

Taylor's actions that night in a Michigan hotel ultimately resulted in an 24-game unpaid suspension from the NBA. It will cost him about $200,000 of the $915,000 he was scheduled to make this season. He is eligible to play again for the Hornets on Dec.17, although he is practicing with the team now.

I think Taylor would have won an appeal and could have gotten his NBA suspension reduced and some of his money back, because NBA commissioner Adam Silver's punishment was unprecedented for a misdemeanor conviction. But I am glad Taylor is not going that route. To appeal and drag out the process would only stain his name further. Taylor said he would instead focus on restoring "some of the damage I've done."

When Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy exhausts the legal process, he would do well to study and emulate what Taylor said Monday. For if Hardy is found guilty on his own domestic violence charges, he will also discover the public is a lot more forgiving when you admit you did something wrong and apologize instead of shifting all blame and being flippant with the judge (which is part of what Hardy did the first time he was in court).

Hardy, of course, is fighting his own misdemeanor conviction in July for assaulting and threatening his former girlfriend in a May incident. He has appealed the judge's conviction and will eventually face the same charges in a jury trial in 2015.

Due to the Hardy and Taylor incidents, Charlotte has found itself in a place where it certainly doesn't want to be -- at the epicenter of the domestic violence crisis in sports.

Taylor apologized to everyone he could think of Monday -- the woman he hurt, the Hornets organization and fans, his family and so on.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't regret what happened, that I don't wish I could go back in that moment and change everything," Taylor said. He would not go into specifics about the bad decisions he made that night, but said removing alcohol from his life was now a priority. He also would not say whether he and the woman involved are still in a romantic relationship, although he said he had known her for a long time and cared about her.

Taylor's graceful apology is not enough to atone for the graceless night that led to him pleading guilty in late October in Michigan to misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious destruction of hotel property. I am not minimizing what he did. After Taylor's plea, he was sentenced to 18 months of probation. He also must complete a domestic violence intervention program, enter an outpatient alcohol treatment program and perform 80 hours of community service.

But Taylor could have fought all of that. He would have likely won his appeal -- the NBA players' union was publicly chomping at the bit to help him with what it had termed an "excessive" punishment.

Instead, he swallowed the whole pill, as bitter as it tasted. He answered questions Monday instead of dodging them (which is what Hardy has done, except when under oath). He took all the blame, and he took the NBA's punishment. And remember that Taylor is not rich by pro athlete standards.

Hardy has made more every week of the 2014 season while only playing a single game -- $770,000 per game week -- than Taylor will make the entire NBA season. Taylor will make about $715,000 after subtracting what the 24-game suspension costs him.

The climate was very different when Taylor was arrested as compared to what it would have been six months before because of incidents involving the NFL's Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Hardy

Silver alluded to that last week in his statement about the case announcing the suspension, referencing "the evolving social consensus -- with which we fully concur -- that professional sports leagues like the NBA must respond to such incidents in a more rigorous way."

This was rigorous, all right. But Taylor put himself in the situation to begin with -- don't forget that. And at least on Monday, he didn't make a mess of things for a second time.

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