While the football-following world waits for a date to be picked in the Tom Brady appeal hearing, the official review of another high-profile suspension will begin on Thursday.
Commencing roughly at 10:00 a.m. ET, arbitrator Harold Henderson will consider the appeal of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy’s 10-game suspension for violating the Personal Conduct Policy. While the NFL Players Association has concerns about Henderson’s independence, an effort will be made to persuade Henderson to reduce the suspension dramatically. Some of the key points that likely will be raised appear below.
First, the NFLPA likely will argue that the league applied the new Personal Conduct Policy retroactively to Hardy, despite a claim that the 10-game suspension arises under the old policy. The old policy ordinarily would have triggered a two-game suspension for a first-offense involving domestic violence, and the NFL has admitted that investigative procedures adopted since the Ray Rice video emerged last September were applied to Hardy. The NFLPA will argue that rules and punishments adopted post-Rice were applied retroactively to Hardy, too.
Second, the NFLPA likely will argue that the league’s reference to the presence of guns at the time of the incident shows that the league applied the new policy to Hardy, since the guns were legally owned. Under the new Personal Conduct Policy, the presence of guns can be an aggravating factor in the discipline to be imposed. Under the old policy, the presence of legally-owned firearms wouldn’t have mattered.
Third, the NFLPA likely will attack the investigation that triggered the suspension, pointing out the absence of any recording of the interview of the lead detective in Hardy’s criminal case or of the key witness who allegedly admitted that she was under the influence of one or more substances when overhearing the interaction between Hardy and his alleged victim.
Fourth, the NFLPA likely will rely on a three-hour interview of the alleged victim conducted by detectives on the morning of the incident, which allegedly conflicted with her testimony at the bench trial that resulted in the much-publicized “conviction” of Hardy. The NFLPA will argue that the three-hour interview of the alleged victim from the morning of the incident wasn’t given to the judge who presided over the bench trial, and that Hardy’s lawyers first received it four days before the jury trial that was schedule to begin in February.
As it relates to the suspension of Greg Hardy, the NFLPA will argue that the investigation and discipline never mention or deal with the contradictions between the three-hour interview with detectives and the alleged victim’s testimony at the bench trial.
On one hand, the circumstances suggest Hardy did something he shouldn’t have done. On the other hand, Hardy and all players are entitled to fair and consistent procedures based on the rules that were in place at the time the relevant conduct occurred. Fairness and justice aren’t always popular, and in some cases the NFL may be hiding behind popular opinion to justify unfair outcomes.
Or, perhaps more accurately, the NFL is determined to never again be criticized for not going far enough when punishing a player — and that the NFL has no qualms about being criticized for going too far.