Ryan’s Rants: The NFL’s Culture of Ignorance in Favor of Talent

Sunday afternoon, my dad and I were watching the Cowboys-Giants game. Following a sterling Dallas victory, the Fox postgame show came on. After the highlights, host Curt Menafee harmlessly urged the rest of his panel, “Guys, let’s talk about Greg Hardy for a second.”

I immediately switched the channel to Formula 1 racing, much to the surprise of my dad. He looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face, silently asking me, “What was that for?” I explained, my exact emotions regarding Greg Hardy.

“I don’t even want to hear them talk about Greg Hardy”

Every time I hear his name or watch a Dallas Cowboys game, I find myself asking these questions constantly. There aren’t a lot of human beings on this earth that I’m just totally and completely disgusted by. Greg Hardy is one of these human beings.

What the hell is Greg Hardy even still doing in this godforsaken league? Why is he still allowed to play football under the tag of one of the biggest and most powerful organizations in the free world?

Look, we all have qualities about us that we’re not proud of and would love to change. None of us are perfect, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever met anyone as half-hearted and genuinely awful as Greg Hardy.

My first contact with Greg Hardy came from an October, 2013 version of Sports Illustrated, in which he was profiled by Greg Bedard, (I believe, don’t quote me on that).

The article was written during Hardy’s 15 sack breakout campaign in 2013, while he was in Carolina.

Hardy sporting his trademark eyeblack for the Panthers. Photo by Chuck Burton for AP
Hardy sporting his trademark eyeblack for the Panthers. Photo by Chuck Burton for AP

The on-field brilliance was well documented – and don’t get me wrong, Hardy is an extremely talented pass rusher. But, briefly mentioned was something that really got my attention and raised some red flags for me.

While at Ole Miss, Hardy was frequently late to practice and meetings, and had a tendency to mix it up at practice a little bit; but would still produce on the field. When he got to Carolina, those things persisted.

The line that really got me was this. Paraphrasing, Hardy was described as being “brilliant when he wanted to be.” Basically, if Hardy didn’t feel like playing hard or giving his best, he flat out wouldn’t.

Does that just sound disgustingly selfish to anyone else?

I know that in any sport I play I’m always getting on guys that I don’t feel are giving 100% effort. I’ve got your back, I fully expect you to have mine. And particularly in football – an already tough game where teamwork is absolutely imperative – the thought of someone not going to war for you because they don’t feel like it just repulses me.

So red flags were going up all over the place for me. I usually like to give the benefit of the doubt to athletes because I know, contrary to popular belief, their jobs are quite difficult. But with Greg Hardy, who I hadn’t even known until this article, I had already taken that liberty away from him.

Fast forward about a year. The article had come and gone; Hardy had been brilliant on the field in 2013, but suddenly his 2014 season was abruptly halted by a bit of a shocking revolution.

A report came out last September that Hardy was being accused of domestically assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Considering the recent escapades of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, domestic violence and the NFL were going together like peanut butter and jelly. And the Hardy news only contributed to the epidemic.

Was I particularly surprised? Considering my opinion of Hardy, absolutely not. But when further details were released that a part of Hardy’s assault was allegedly throwing his girlfriend down violently on a couch full of assault rifles, I was shocked.

How can one human being treat another this badly? Especially when that human being is the one that you’ve given your heart and soul to? It just hurt my heart to think about, and made me angry as well. But the psyche behind domestic violence is a totally different subject for a different day.

Anyway, following the allegations – which Hardy was acquitted of, but never publicly denied – Roger Goodell did his typical Roger Goodell thing and waited around on making a decision. Why? Because Greg Hardy’s a good football player that sells jerseys and tickets and makes Goodell a lot of money, so Goodell won’t immediately suspend him even if his actions are absolutely despicable.

It was typical Goodell, and just completely follows suit with the NFL’s culture of ignorance in favor of talent.

Hardy didn’t play another down in 2014 and didn’t play another down for the Panthers, and rightly so. I began to think that maybe the NFL was making a change for the better and actually taking a stand against domestic violence.

I was wrong.

I was in a hotel room in Tampa Bay this past March when I flipped on SportsCenter to discover some news that I wasn’t at all happy about. Greg Hardy had been activated from the NFL’s restricted list and had been signed by the Dallas Cowboys.

You’ve got to be kidding me. We’re really going to pull this shit again NFL? Greg Hardy is just too talented and makes too much money for the league for us to really care about the fact that he showed no remorse for allegedly, (I have to say allegedly because he was acquitted only because of a lack of evidence I might add), committing one of the worst crimes I know of.

In staying true with their typical policy, the NFL suspended Hardy for the first four games of 2015, because they have to at least pretend they care, right?

Photo by Associated Press
Photo by Associated Press

So, for the most part, we all forgot about Hardy. We all went on worrying about bigger and better things. But, when Hardy was activated before week 5, he re-entered all of our minds in the worst way possible.

In his first access to the media, Hardy was asked how he would play. His response? “I’m gonna come out guns blazing.” He then proceeded to make misplaced and disrespectful comments about Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele.

After coming back from an incident in which he was accused of throwing his girlfriend down on a couch full of assault rifles, the first words out of Greg Hardy’s mouth were “guns blazing.”

At this point, we’ve crossed the line between poor media comments and just genuinely being an absolutely awful human being.

Greg Hardy had to pretend to respect women and be sorry for what he did for 12 minutes. TWELVE MINUTES. And he couldn’t even do that. But what did the NFL do about it? Absolutely nothing. No fines, no suspension, no public comments, nothing. And the Cowboys? All they did was “talk sternly” with Hardy to let him know that this wasn’t okay.

What are we, in pre-school? Talk sternly? Are we going to put him in timeout next? Come the hell on, this is the NFL, Greg Hardy is a fully grown man, you really think he’s going to positively respond to a stern talk? Once again, Hardy is given a pass by his employers because his talent is just so immense that the significant issues he brings are effectively ignored.

And then a new chapter was written in the Greg Hardy this past Sunday. It was normal football stuff, with Hardy getting into a shouting match on his own sideline with the special teams coach and anyone who would listen to him. How bad was it? Dez Bryant played the role of peacemaker; that’s right, Dez Bryant.

And after the game, as Hardy was talking to the media again, he interrupted every question with “no comment, next question.” So instead of handling the issue and addressing it like a man, Hardy simply acted like a little kid and avoided all questions.

But I’ve written enough words to give you an accurate impression of how awful Hardy is, let’s move on to the other side of the issue.

As reporters asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about Hardy, he responded with, “He’s one of the real leaders on the team and he earns it. That’s the kind of thing that inspires.”

Holy shit you can’t be serious with me right now.

You’re telling me that throwing a massive sideline tantrum earns you the tag of being a leader and inspires your teammates? As the kids these days would say, I can’t even.

When they initially signed Hardy, the Cowboys – and specifically Jones – emphasized that they’d “done their homework” on him and that there would be no more problems. Well guess what, there are still freaking problems guys.

Hardy’s actions are awful, and he clearly has no place in this league, but he really isn’t the real issue here. It’s everyone that gives him a damn job and lets him be an awful person in the limelight.

The NFL’s culture of ignoring big time issues because a player is immensely talented has to change. The fact that Greg Hardy continues to be enabled by Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and Roger Goodell is unacceptable. After all he’s done he has never paid a single dollar in fines to the NFL for reasons off the field, and the worst thing that’s ever happened to him is a stern talking to.

That is not okay at all. But nonetheless, as Jones’ comments showed, Hardy will continued to be mollycoddled, endorsed and enabled because he’s good at sacking the quarterback. And further, Jerry Jones came out today and said that the Cowboys hope to work out an extension for Hardy, which means he’ll potentially be guaranteed a spot in this league for even longer.

There aren’t enough words for me to accurately express just how hurt and angry this makes me as a man.

NFL, you do enough awful things as is, and with your bullshit breast cancer “Crucial catch” campaign every October you even pretend to give a rat’s ass about women and how they view your league. So do them another favor and stop enabling a man who gives shows less respect toward them than few people I’ve ever seen.

Fire him and keep him far away. He has no place in your league and you need to realize that. You will make plenty of money without Greg Hardy, I promise. I say that because I know that’s the only thing you greedy blowhards care about.

His talent should not even matter when you stop to consider the things that he has done. Overlook it and remove him from your brand.

If you continue to enable Greg Hardy, you will continue to lose fans like me, and we’ll all look like one of the reporters listening to Jerry Jones’ mind-bogglingly insensitive tirade.

Hardy 1
Did you really just say that Jerry?

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

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Ryan’s Rants: The NFL’s Culture of Ignorance in Favor of Talent

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