Throughout a one-on-one interview with ESPN's Adam Schefter that aired on Tuesday, NFL defensive end Greg Hardy, who was found guilty of domestic abuse (creating a record that was later expunged), responded to Schefter's questions with composure and in a hushed tone.
In his first interview about his past allegations of domestic violence, Hardy was alarmingly polite to Schefter throughout the 13-minute sit-down, addressing him as "sir" and smiling out of the side out his mouth when talking about football and his teammates. There was no mea culpa from Hardy, so it was a cordial meeting — Schefter never pressed Hardy in his questioning — but the substance of it wasn't.
After the interview aired, Schefter went on Dan Patrick's radio show to play pacemaker to Hardy's arrhythmic NFL dream, as the defensive end remains a free agent following a tumultuous year with the Dallas Cowboys.
"I went in with the idea that this guy is a monster. I came out of there with a very different feeling," Schefter said. "I found him to be a changed kind of guy."
But just because Hardy was able to get through an interview being calm and composed without lashing out or joking about Tom Brady's wife while dodging questions about his domestic violence allegations, he's not suddenly a different person. We can't consider him truly changed until he apologizes for his actions and, above all, seeks counseling for his violent behavior. Until then, everything he says is at the detriment of domestic violence victims everywhere — Hardy is a living reminder of how abusers can walk free without recourse.
Being a "monster" and someone who can act as a decent person in the right situations are not mutually exclusive. A monster can allegedly toss his ex-girlfriend into a bathtub and then onto a futon of automatic weapons and still appear as a cordial person in front of the camera. Hardy claims that his "personality is not confrontational. It’s not in-your-face,” but interactions with coaches and teammates seem to suggest otherwise:
Hardy is unquestionably still a bad guy, but he's not actively committing acts of evil during every moment of his life — that's not how uncaught criminals manage to live among us. When a person commits a violent crime and is arrested, it's not uncommon for the media to run quotes from family members or friends saying things like, Oh, this is so out of character, I never would've expected this out of them — a cliched and bad bit of common criminal reporting that Schefter totally perpetuated.
And, honestly, in an interview airing on the top sports cable network in the world, how did else Schefter expect Hardy to act? Did he think Hardy would transform into an "invincible mythological sea creature with white eyes" (actual language Hardy used to compare media speculation about his character to his possible existence as a fantasy creature) and bite his head off? Hell no.
ESPN reporter Adam Schefter seemed all too happy to produce what amounted to a puff piece for a domestic abuser.
Since the night police were summoned to his apartment in response to a domestic violence call in May 2014, Hardy has never once taken responsibility. Once Hardy and a friend reportedly fabricated a story to cover for ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder's beaten body, from that day forward, the party line has been one of innocence. He changed his Twitter bio in November saying he was "innocent." Because the state of North Carolina dropped his domestic violence case after Hardy paid off Holder to "disappear," in his mind, nothing bad ever happened.
Schefter schilling for Hardy during the interview and thereafter isn't even the worst part of it. It's that Hardy, a man who allegedly put these bruises on Nicole Holder's body, continues to proclaim that he never touched her that night:
Instead of acknowledging his attacks, he's playing the victim. He told Schefter that he put himself "in a situation where I can be attacked," adding, “I still suffer repercussions for it. I fight it on the day-to-day, dealing with the people, my family and being a leper of sorts."
No shit. For all intents and purposes, you physically harmed a woman, even if the justice system hasn't conclusively recognized it. He has no interest in seeking rehabilitation — his sole focus is on football and his image, when self-help should be his priority, especially if he realistically wants to rejoin the NFL. When he speaks about wanting to be "better," it's only been in the context of football, not his character.
“It hurts me and my family when people take me like that, as a criminal and a monster, when I wanna be better," he said to Schefter. "I want to set records, I want to chase the dream, I want to be part of a team. When I go places, I want people to know that I want to be a part of a championship team.”
In effect, Schefter conducted a job interview with an remorseless, undeserving individual (perhaps in exchange for future scoops). ESPN willingly provided Hardy with a platform to get his "message out," but not to victims of domestic violence in the apologetic plea of a rehabilitated man, similar to how Ray Rice handled an interview during 2015 training camp in an attempt to find a job, but instead to teams looking for pass rush help. At one point, Schefter even ran through Hardy's list of statistics before putting his Hardy salesman hat on, saying, “Those are a lot of accomplishments, and this league is looking for pass rushers.”
Tossing away football, the most profound accomplishment of Hardy's life would actually be signing up for a rehabilitation program for domestic abusers. It's where he belongs, because if he wants to return to the NFL one day, he'll need to see Holder as the real victim and propel himself to earnestly change.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.