Welcome to celebrity justice.
In July, Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy was found guilty of assault and communicating threats to a female in Mecklenburg (N.C.) County court. In the North Carolina court system, he was allowed to appeal that decision to superior court. Monday was to be Day 1 of the trial. But the charges were dismissed. Why? Because prosecutors could not locate its primary witness, Nicole Holder, Hardy’s former girlfriend, who reportedly reached a settlement.
It was a legal win for Hardy, a likely financial win for Holder and a loss for those who fight for tougher laws against domestic violence.
This puts NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a difficult spot. Hardy, who had 15 sacks in 2013, was put on the commissioner’s exempt list after one game last season. That effectively was a suspension with pay, pending the outcome of legal proceedings. So while Hardy didn’t play most of last season, he received his full salary of $13.116 million.
The Panthers are not expected to put the “franchise tag” on Hardy again, effectively allowing him to become a free agent in March. But Goodell theoretically could still suspend him for several games, based on Hardy’s first conviction and a belief that he bought his way out of a second one. In a similar situation, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson was on the commissioner’s exempt list, accepted a plea deal on child abuse charges in November and expected to return to the Vikings, only to have Goodell suspend him for at least the remainder of the season.
There were red flags on Hardy’s character going back to his days at Mississippi. That’s why he was only the 175th player (sixth round) taken in the 2010 draft. But he has been a productive player at Carolina, with escalating sack totals of 3, 4, 11 and 15 before last season.
Will the Falcons’ pursue him? Not likely. Despite their obvious need to improve the pass rush, Hardy is a huge risk. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Falcons begin to take more chances on some players with character issues, Hardy seemingly has too much baggage to make it through their filter. It also would be a high financial risk, given the salary he may command.
But for now, Hardy and every team is on hold until Goodell decides what to do next.
Question: Do you think the Falcons should enter the bidding for Hardy?
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