Greg Hardy did a heinous thing. With Deadspin's drop of pictures and evidence pertaining to Hardy's domestic abuse case, including dozens of disturbing images, we now know the full enormity of Hardy's alleged crime.
And now that all the information is public, the Dallas Cowboys' continued employment of Hardy endorses his alleged act, each and every day.
Sadly, the law has punished Hardy as much as it can. Nicole Holder's consistent, harrowing testimony and the images of her were enough to convict Hardy in a court of law. That decision was overturned on appeal when Hardy and Holder reached a settlement out of court, vacating the previous decision.
The idea that people are innocent until proven guilty is a tenet of American society. But Hardy was proven guilty, more than we can even say about Ray Rice. Although Hardy is now technically not guilty in the eyes of the law, we can use our eyes and draw our own conclusions.
Sadly, the NFL has punished Hardy as much as it can, too. In fact, they tried to punish Hardy more than their collective bargaining agreement allowed them to.
The NFL's investigative branch was given a docket from Charlotte police about the case. They actually sued for the ability to access additional evidence to better make a decision about the case. And when they got that evidence, they dropped the hammer by suspending Hardy for 10 games.
The NFLPA argued that because Hardy's incident took place in May 2014 and the NFL didn't institute its new, stricter domestic violence policy until August of that year, the NFL was unjustified in issuing a punishment under the harsher rules. An arbitrator reduced Hardy's punishment to four games.
Roger Goodell and his crew have tried bypassing the CBA to over-suspend players in the past. It doesn't work. Tom Brady walloped the NFL in court and an attempt to increase Ray Rice's suspension without new evidence didn't hold up in court. These attempts at new punishments led to nothing but embarrassment and court fees.
The NFL tried its best to punish Hardy, but right now there's nothing it can do to prevent him from being legally eligible.
But just because a player is eligible to play for an NFL team doesn't mean an NFL team has to sign him and play him. I'm eligible to play for an NFL team. You're eligible to play for an NFL team. Right now, Rice is eligible to play for an NFL team and has been ever since he beat the NFL in court. Nobody has given him a thought. He's too toxic to sign. And perhaps more to the point, he was coming off a bad season.
The Cowboys are choosing to employ Hardy. They've seen what he's done. They know it's awful. And they're making the choice to pay him millions of dollars to play football, because he's good at it.
Not only are they letting him play, they're lauding him. When he got into a fight with a coach, Jerry Jones called him a "leader." When Deadspin's evidence dropped, Jones doubled down on his support for Hardy, releasing a statement about giving Hardy a second chance.
The Cowboys have the ability to do the right thing here. They had the ability not to sign Hardy, knowing about his past. They had the ability to condemn him when he showed no contrition for his past, spewing a series of off-color comments after his return from suspension. They had the ability to cut him when he got into a physical dispute with a coach. (Not related to his awful off-field actions, but still a good time to cut a player.)
Now that Hardy's full story is out in the open, the Cowboys still have the opportunity to make the right decision. Was it wrong to sign Hardy in the first place and employ him for this long? Yes. But it's not too late to do the right thing and make a statement that domestic abuse isn't acceptable.
But with each passing day the Cowboys employ Hardy, they're making a different statement. They're telling the world that they're fine employing a person capable of morally repugnant acts, so long as he's good at football. We've seen the photos. Jerry Jones has seen the photos. And every time Hardy walks on the field in a Cowboys uniform, Jones is endorsing the man responsible for those photos.
The bright side is the Cowboys have lost every single game Hardy has played. Hardy's been a force of nature on the defensive line, but the Cowboys' conscious decision to employ Hardy has not resulted in a single win. While I've never harbored ill will against Dallas in the past, I hope it stays this way as long as he's on the team.