By Ryan Love
Sunday rituals are a little bit different this year for Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy.
No more are the days of putting on intimidating war paint and colored contacts. No more are the days of creeping onto the field at Bank of America Stadium and putting his sack celebrations into effect. Instead, he finds himself in the discomfort of his home, cowering from the media and fans calling for his head on a platter.
Hardy was arrested in May 2014 and charged with assault on a female and communication threats. He is currently on the exempt commissioner’s list, taking a leave of absence with pay from the NFL while his legal issues become resolved. His court date is scheduled for Nov. 17.
The domestic dispute, ignited by an argument involving Hardy’s concern with his then girlfriend Nicole Holder’s previous relationship with rapper Nelly, has all of the makings of being a career-killer for Hardy. But the full story has yet to be told, and the Panthers are committed to following due process in order to make a final decision on Hardy.
The decision to put Hardy on the commissioner’s exempt list is particularly troubling for the Panthers, as they put the franchise tag on Hardy, who will be making $13.1 million over the next year, whether he plays or not. A self-described monster on the field, “The Kraken” has had 26 sacks in the past two seasons, good for fifth in the NFL over that span. He quickly emerged as one of the NFL’s top young defensive linemen, making the Pro Bowl for the first time last season.
But all of that came to a screeching halt.
It didn’t come to a halt on May 13 when he was arrested for assault on a female and communicating threats.
It didn’t come to a halt on July 15 when he was found guilty of assault on a female and communicating threats by a Mecklenberg County, N.C., judge.
It came to a halt on Sept. 8 when TMZ released a video of Ray Rice punching now-wife Janay Palmer in an elevator, knocking her out, and dragging her out of the elevator. This, followed the next day by the announcement of Adrian Peterson’s child abuse accusations, began to raise questions about the “The Kraken.”
“Why is Greg Hardy still playing?” they asked.
“What is the difference between Ray Rice and Greg Hardy?” they asked.
Did the media simply overlook the Greg Hardy case? Did he not have enough star power behind his name to make the story?
The media has only told part of the story. Whenever the term “domestic violence” is used, it is almost as if red paint is splashed over the suspect’s reputation, never to be washed away. Their reputation becomes tarnished forever.
Things looked particularly gloomy for Hardy when the media began reporting the domestic violence charge. Headlined was the account of Holder, who stated in a police report that Hardy threw her into a bathtub, pulled her by her hair, choked her with both hands around her throat and told her that he was going to kill her. She also states that he picked her up over his head and threw her into a couch laced with assault rifles before she could run away to a nearby hospital.
Lost in the media’s reports is the 9-1-1 call made by Hardy, who makes the call while Holder is still in his apartment. She can be heard screaming at him while Hardy is on the phone, stating that the woman was attacking him. He states that she is blocking the door and “will not stop coming at me.” He also states that she hit him in the face twice and he and his manager (Sammy Curtis) was simply trying to restrain the woman.
Holder admitted in court to being under the influence of alcohol and having cocaine in her system at the time of the incident. She also did not appear in court for her request for a restraining order. Her attorney, Stephen Goodwin, withdrew from the case shortly before it began due to “irreconcilable differences.”
A key witness in the case was Holder’s friend Christina Lawrence, who testified that there were only a few weapons in Hardy’s apartment; two guns against the window and a few on the bar.
Needless to say, Holder’s account of the story has its holes. While a court of law should ultimately pass judgment on whose version of the case is most credible, the least the media should do – including here in this venue – is portray all aspects of the story fully, fairly, and accurately.
So far, the media – for the most part – has dropped the ball in this regard. Due to the overwhelmingly lopsided media coverage of the charges, Hardy quickly became victim to the pitfall of public opinion. Despite already being found guilty by Judge Rebecca Thorn-Tin, North Carolina law states that Hardy has the right to appeal to a jury trial before being convicted of anything.
The NFL and Carolina Panthers acted far too soon on this issue. While public relations practices should be praised for putting the fire out before it spread, it lays the groundwork for the NFL that due process will not be followed whenever legal matters come to surface.
Hardy has never had the reputation of the NFL’s “good guy.” His weekly war paint and colored contacts make him look like a barbarian straight out of a horror movie. Fox Sports even did a feature on Hardy in December 2013, explaining his nickname of the Kraken and detailing his aggressive nature to the tune of the theme song from horror movie franchise, “Saw.”
In the feature, Hardy describes himself as a monster. He explains that you cannot separate real life from football and that it’s “a whole ‘nother swag.”
“When the Kraken comes out, whatever happens happens. You’re stuck with it,” Hardy said.
“It’s not my fault. If you’re in my way, I’m going to remove you. If you have an attitude, I’m going to kill it. I’ve been this guy my whole life and it’s finally able to come out and be its own monster.”
“It’s get killed or do the killing.”
Unfortunately for Hardy, it appears as though the media overload of domestic violence this year may have prematurely killed his NFL career.