The rules were clear and precedent had been set with previous players. The Giants and the league had to deal firmly and definitively with Josh Brown; but once again, the NFL’s action taken on a player accused of domestic violence does not live up to its talk.
The NFL and the New York Giants are now on the clock, but this time there are no players to select. Rather, this is a pick of dignity. One could argue that in many ways the Giants brand as a whole could be in jeopardy based on the outcome of their reaction to this accusation.
Today, one of the league’s marquee franchises will take the field at London’s Twickenham Stadium for a date designed to showcase this great sport of ours to an international audience. Back home, the game will kick off at 9:30 ET to a national audience. It’s the first pro football game pitting a New York team against a Los Angeles team in 22 years. The broadcast will take place on the league’s network.
What will the discussion focus on then you might ask?
Will it be how the Giants are still hanging on to Josh Brown? Will it be that the league is still looking into his domestic violence problems? Or will it be that the team came to its senses and dropped the ax on its kicker, who was left home and inactive for the London game? Did the NFL make Brown ineligible to play for anyone by sticking him on the commissioner’s exempt list, which was created specifically for a situation like this one?
I know all of that matters now, but I’m here to tell you it shouldn’t.
Two years ago, the biggest problem for the NFL was created by its long-standing reluctance to lean on that little thing that your mom and dad instilled in you at an age you can’t remember: the ability to separate right from wrong. Instead, the Ray Rice case, and then the Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson cases after it, became about crisis management and public relations.
Ray Rice, at a June, 2014 interview with the league, was completely forthcoming about the altercation with his then-fiancée Janay in an Atlantic City elevator the previous February. Following that interview, the NFL suspended Rice for two games. The following September, when video was released showing Rice doing what he had told NFL investigators he’d done, the Ravens cut him and the league suspended him indefinitely. He hasn’t played football since.
The Sunday before that video came out, Hardy played for the Panthers despite having been convicted that summer of assaulting a woman. Six days later, he was a late scratch for week 2. Carolina coach Ron Rivera, when asked the reason for the cut, said the “climate has changed”. Hardy didn’t play again until the following October. Peterson’s situation came to light that week too, and, like Hardy, he didn’t suit up again all year.
The bottom line is that the actions of those three were not the agents of change. No, it was a grainy piece of surveillance video, and the resulting national outrage, that resulted in league action. Only when the public had the visual did the outcry become widespread, and only when the public outcry became widespread did the league get serious about the abuse of women and children.
I think we all hoped it would be different the next time around, with the league carrying the newly instituted hammer of a six-game suspension for first-time offenders.
And now, I feel like a rube for buying into that idea.
Here’s what we know about Brown’s situation (and we can speculate that things are even worse than what we know). The NFL and the Giants looked into a May, 2015 domestic incident between Brown and his then-wife, Molly. On the 26th of that month, the league put in an open-records request with King County (Wash.). Eight months later, NFL security was called to help defuse another domestic dispute involving Brown and his wife.
Based on his actions and the journal entries released in the last 24 hours, it’s clear that Brown is a sick man. If the Giants wanted to help him, I’d understand it. In fact, you could even applaud it. The same could be said for the NFL, too, which did a creditable job years ago in assistive efforts with Michael Vick and Donte’ Stallworth.
Notably, if you said there’d be zero tolerance, as Mara did two years ago, and the player told you face-to-face that he stepped over that line, you can’t put him on your football team. If you set the bar at six games, and there’s that much noise, you can’t cut the player slack and give him one game.
I don’t care if the player’s a kicker or a quarterback. I don’t care if you’re New York or Jacksonville. Furthermore, while many people will probably think I’m crazy, but you have to wonder what the outcome would be if someone with the star power of a Tom Brady committed this crime?
Two years ago we were told it was a new day for the NFL. We were assured by the league and NFL team owners that on-the-field production wouldn’t be a sole reason for the outcome of said players. The league has to come clean on its missteps and pledged to do better.
Sadly, however, it’s all talk to WHAT we want to hear rather than take action…sound familiar…???
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