(BLOGGER’S NOTE: Normally, Notes from the Commish is designed to bring the funny from the week that was in the NFL. This week, though, I’m simply not in the mood. There’s something I need to get off my chest before I continue to have fun with either fantasy football or the NFL. So feel free to either read what I have to say or I’ll meet you back here next week for some more snark.)
When I was a teenager, I was tasked with offering up an apology for some transgression of mine (not an unusual occurrence.) I don’t remember what exactly I did or how exactly my apology was phrased, but I DO remember thinking it was very eloquent. My father listened with a sort of impassive bulldog look on his face and when I was finished, he said, “Those are fine words, Joe. But unless you back them up with actions, that’s all they are.” While I was disappointed about my apology being swatted aside, my dad’s message has stayed with me: as best as any of us are capable, you have to walk it like you talk it.
That popped into my head again the other day when I saw the pictures of the damage Greg Hardy did to his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. To that end, allow me to quote from the Sports Illustrated article regarding the attack.
First he flung Holder onto a bed, then he threw her into a bathtub. Then he tossed her onto a futon covered with a cache of firearms. An inventory of the guns later filed with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office revealed 10 semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. (In North Carolina, permits are not required for firearms other than handguns.) According to Holder, Hardy asserted that the rifles were loaded. Next,Hardy ripped from Holder’s body a necklace that he had gifted her. He threw the jewelry into a toilet, and when Holder attempted to fish it out, Hardy slammed the lid on her arm. He then dragged her by the hair from room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat. “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,’ Holder later testified. ‘I was so scared, I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me.’
Oh, if that doesn’t tickle your funny bone enough, there’s also this:
Emergency room photos reveal bruises on Holder’s foot, wrist, neck, chin, face, forearm, elbow and back. Holder, however, did not give a statement that night. Later, when asked why, she would respond: “[Hardy] had told me in past if I took food out of his family’s mouth he was going to kill me.”
When the photos of Holder’s injuries were made public, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doubled-down (again) on his commitment to Hardy, but also said that he was concerned about domestic violence. It is at least fair to say that Jones has chosen an odd way to show that concern.
I’ve written in the past that men like Jones and Washington owner Daniel Snyder have spent their lives surrounded by yes men and bobos, resulting in their misguided (best case) or arrogant (worst case) belief that just because they say something, everyone will believe it to be true. As my dad would be quick to point out, fine words (hell, ANY words) are meaningless if not backed up by actions.
Jerry Jones says he’s concerned about domestic violence. However, he’s willing to contractually obligate himself to pay 11.3 million dollars to someone as repugnant as Greg Hardy. He’s willing to do this having (by his own admission) never seen the photos of Nicole Holder’s injuries. Meaning, in terms of due diligence, Jerry Jones didn’t give a damn about Greg Hardy’s past. He was concerned about Hardy’s use as a football player. Meaning the question of domestic violence never entered into Jones’ decision-making.
The problem with an organization linking itself to someone like Greg Hardy is that it taints the entire organization. There is no getting around this. It becomes an in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound type of situation. It’s one of the reasons I’m no longer a fan of the Minnesota Vikings.
Back in 2012, Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer responded to punter Chris Kluwe’s opposition to the anti-same sex marriage amendment by telling Kluwe that all gays should be put on an island and nuked until it glows. Priefer vigorously denied these accusations until later confessing to them during an investigation. When head coach Leslie Frazier was let go at the end of the 2013 season, new coach Mike Zimmer cleaned out the entire coaching staff…with one exception. Yeah, you guessed it. Mike Priefer. The result of the Vikings’ investigation into Priefer, a coach who should never have been retained by Zimmer in the first place, was to give Priefer a three week suspension and order him to take sensitivity training. That slap on the wrist was more than I could take. I abandoned my lifelong loyalty to the Vikings.
To those who think I’m overreacting, ask yourself this: if Priefer had said that all African-Americans should be put on an island and nuked until it glows, would he still be working in the NFL? Or if it had been Asian-Americans? Or Latinos? Or just about any group you can think of except gays? Would a three week suspension and sensitivity training be considered enough of a punishment? By allowing Priefer to remain employed by the Vikings, Zimmer, GM Rick Spielman and owner Zygi Wilf are tolerating Priefer’s virulent strain of homophobia and linking their organization to his remarks.
I was discussing this with Robbie, whose views on Priefer were (surprisingly) compassionate and (not surprisingly) self-interested. Robbie said that it was more constructive for Priefer to deal with his issues while still employed. In short, let’s work to help this guy rather than cut him loose. There’s a point to be had there, but I can’t help disagreeing. If your concern is to help Priefer (hang on, I just threw up a little in my mouth) what gives him more to think about: my boss made me take sensitivity training in order to keep my job or my homophobia is the reason I’m out of work? Which is more likely to bring about self-examination?
It’s true that Priefer apologized, but if you read the text of his apology–and throw in the fact he initially denied making the remarks–it reads less like, “I’m sorry I spoke like a bigoted fool” and more like, “I’m sorry I got caught speaking like a bigoted fool.” Robbie has also taken me to task for abandoning the Vikings, pointing out that there are plenty of other guys on the team who don’t necessarily hold Priefer’s point of view. I’m sorry, but to me that sounds a tad like, “Hey, it’s just one turd in the punch bowl. Can’t you drink around it?”
Those who continue to support the Cowboys and the Vikings through this distasteful period tend to blather on about second chances. I’m not disagreeing that somebody should be given a second chance, but I will point out that it’s not a birthright. It needs to be earned. Among the factors to be considered, one has to examine the initial action. After all, contrition only holds water up to a certain point.
George Carlin once talked about an incident in which two New York City cops were convicted of violating a Haitian immigrant with a nightstick while arresting him. Among the punishments handed down, the cops were ordered to take sensitivity training. To this, Carlin replied, “If you need sensitivity training to tell you not to shove a nightstick up a guy’s ass, maybe you’re too f**ked up to be a cop in the first place.” I think of that when I think of Hardy and Priefer. Are we really laboring under the delusion that Mike Priefer got to age 46 without realizing you shouldn’t wish death on a group of people simply because they exist? Or that the problem with Greg Hardy was that nobody ever told him you shouldn’t beat a woman half to death? Now that they’re aware of this, they’ll be right as rain? Is that the idea?
Certain lines, once crossed, cannot be re-crossed. Mike Priefer wished death on all gay people, did not apologize to the people he offended and was retained by the Vikings organization. Greg Hardy nearly killed Nicole Holder, has shown absolutely no contrition and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys. In keeping these “men” on their payroll, these organizations have said, in essence, “These transgressions are not important to us.” And if you continue to root for these organizations while they employ these men, you are saying the exact same thing. No matter what you claim, your actions show otherwise.
It’s that simple.
Peyton’s Heroes (Carol) 8-1
The Winter Soldiers (Mike) 5-4
Chuck (Chuck) 5-4
The Rat Pack (Me) 4-5
The Sex Machine (Lars) 3-6
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 6-3
Deflated Balls (Robbie) 5-4
Favre’s Dong (Jack) 4-5
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 4-5
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 2-7