Friday afternoon, Deadspin released the staggering body of evidence it has collected from the state of North Carolina's case against Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy. There are detailed, harrowing statements from witnesses, disturbing evidence of Hardy creating a cover story as his alleged assault on his ex-girlfriend was taking place and photos of the damage Hardy allegedly inflicted on his ex, Nicole Holder.
As disgusting as the evidence is, it shouldn't be surprising. Nothing contained in Deadspin's reporting, save the photos, was new. We've known for over a year that Holder claimed Hardy choked her. We've known for over a year that Holder was allegedly tossed on a couch covered with guns by Hardy. We've known that Holder believed and claimed she heard Hardy say he wanted to kill her. We've known, or at the very least carefully avoided admitting to ourselves, that what Hardy probably did to Holder was just as horrific as what former Ravens running back Ray Rice was seen on camera doing in Atlantic City — cold-cocking his future wife before dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.
We knew all of those things, and we know Rice still hasn't played a down over the last season plus. Rice may not take the field again, but Hardy played Sunday. He'll play next Sunday, too, and probably play well. He's not, like Rice, a running back with deteriorating skills. Hardy has been the Cowboys' best defensive player since he returned from the four-game suspension he received in response to his alleged assault. The team would be much worse off without his contributions; one could be tempted to say the Cowboys need him.
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But they don't, and we don't. The Cowboys should not have signed Hardy. He saw his conviction for assaulting Holder dismissed on appeal, but only after he came to a financial settlement with his alleged victim. He got his suspension reduced from 10 to four games because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can't follow procedure, not because of any real mitigating circumstances.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted over the weekend that the Cowboys were aware of everything released by Deadspin except the photos. Jones signed Hardy knowing Holder's story. The Cowboys' owner knew the photos existed, knew Hardy allegedly threatened to kill Holder while making it seem the two were engaged in mutual combat. Jones thought, correctly, that Hardy could help his defense, and that was what mattered. The Cowboys, according to Jones, did their due diligence on Hardy. That's fine, but Hardy has never shown the slightest amount of remorse. Even Saturday, the day after photos of his battered ex-girlfriend became public, Hardy would only say that he regretted "what happened."
Just had to say I express my regret 4 what happened in past and I'm Dedicated to being the best person & teammate that I can be— Kraken&theNightmares (@OverlordKraken) November 8, 2015
At some point, and it has probably already happened, we're going to stop being fans and start being enablers for a sport that celebrates violence, destroys its participants' bodies and features team owners who do things like call people like Greg Hardy leaders. At that same juncture, maybe we'll decide the escape, joy and feeling of community that's found in watching the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon isn't going to be worth it anymore. If we're not there yet, it's hard to imagine what it will take.