Vol. 16, No. 12
If it takes you a long time to recall your worst moment while roaming this planet, either you have lived a truly virtuous life or have had so many bad moments that picking just one becomes a bit of a chore. Whether a sinner or saint, we have all had a moment or two where we’ve stepped out of character in a manner that goes against our value system.
I’ve been no saint in this life of mine. Mistakes? I’ve made a few, though hopefully too few to mention when it’s all done and said.
Unfortunately it doesn’t take me very long to acknowledge that my worst moment came when my emotions and my liquor got the best of me, and I physically assaulted a woman that I was madly in love with. A woman who I wanted no physical or emotional harm to come to then, or since.
My behavior in that moment; well over 20 years ago now, was totally inexcusable. Any legal penalty brought against me would have been fully justified and I would have truly suffered it in peace because it would have been deserved and well-earned. That would have held true whether my retribution came at the hands of the U.S legal system or her older brother. Only my ex-girlfriend’s good graces prevented him from administering his own unique brand of justice. But I absolutely would have had it coming. Any dude who even allowed the thought to form in his head of putting his hands on my late-sister would have had a beatdown coming for sure. Without hesitation.
There is no bigger show of weakness and cowardice that a man can display more than violently laying his hands on a woman. I felt that way then when it was my own cowardice, and I feel that way now when I see it in others.
But to be clear, I had a moment. A shameful, inexcusable moment. A moment that would have justified in me being held to full account. A moment that could have totally changed the trajectory of my life. But what that moment should not have done (particularly with me not being close to approaching the age where I could legally over-consume the alcohol that contributed to my impaired judgment) is in any way define the entirety of who I would become as a man. Or even who I was in that relationship, which has long since been mended.
I am forever indebted to my teenage love that she gave me a chance to redeem myself in a manner that seems to be severely lacking in today’s society where we stand eager to cast stones at whoever is the new national pariah of the week.
I am not a woman beater. I’ve had many relationships since, some of which have had more than their share of volatile moments. Some have even involved women wailing on me, but I’ve never come close to having a moment like that again. And I never will.
From all accounts there are several dissimilarities between my behavior as a teenager and those that have been widely reported as being committed against Nicole Holder at the hands of Greg Hardy. In theory, Greg Hardy is old enough to know better. Don’t get me wrong, even then, I too was old enough to know better; but there should be no doubt that one should have mastered enough emotional maturity to control themselves in this manner by the time they are 26 years-old as Hardy was at the time of his assault. Unlike me, (sort of anyway) Greg Hardy’s body is a weapon. He weighs 278 pounds and gets paid to commit violent acts against grown men for a living. And while I had a moment, Hardy’s actions seemed to go on for several minutes and had a premeditation that I lacked at the time. And while it has taken Greg Hardy some time to make any public acknowledgement of his wrongdoing, 5 minutes hadn’t gone by before I was literally begging at my ex-girlfriend’s feet.
I feel as though the legal system did not do right by Nicole Holder, even in spite of her sudden unavailability to testify against him in the jury trial. My line of work makes me privy to the wide body of research that shows that victims of domestic violence often take years to report their abuse – if they ever report it at all. And male-dominated law enforcement and prosecutors have failed to take these crimes seriously for generations. If this crime were taken more seriously, we would not see so many incidents of domestic violence nationwide. The numbers are staggering. One out of every five women will be the victim of serious physical violence from a mate in their lifetime. A woman is assaulted in this country every nine seconds. 20,000 women call domestic violence hotlines daily and yet only 34 percent of victims ever receive medical treatment for their injuries, signaling that many go unreported.
There has been much attention given to Greg Hardy’s incident in recent weeks, although the case itself is well over a year old; as well the shocking 9-1-1 call that may have saved her life. The only thing new was the photos and; like Ray Rice in the elevator, we learned again that America can only be shaken from its attention deficit regarding this crisis when it is accompanied by some not-so-pretty pictures. Before that, Nicole Holder was totally invisible to the vast majority of the American public, just like the three women who will die today as a result of domestic violence.
What made the collective faux concern even more difficult to stomach was the sanctimonious reaction that came from far and wide on how this crowd felt that Greg Hardy should be reprimanded: he should lose his $11-million-a-year job.
Hardly anyone asked any hard questions about how Hardy could be walking around free in a country where we lock up over 90,000 non-violent, drug offenders each year in America. No one questioned if the prosecutor in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; who failed to even secure an arrest in the the case, was asleep at the wheel. No one scrutinized our laws that allowed Hardy to escape without any sort of legal penalty.
No, all anybody talked about was football. What a ridiculously sad state of affairs.
Most women who will be abused this year won’t be abused by football players. And these lawbreakers won’t always abuse women like Nicole Holder who have a wider set of options to escape their abusers. The solution to bring justice for those women is a lost of pay, rather than a lost of freedom?
And to be clear, I am the last person who is rushing to have another black man locked up. My point is that looking to Jerry Jones to set the moral authority on domestic violence is totally misguided. And more than showing any real concern for the victims, this posture reveals the hypocrisy of many of those who have chimed in on the issue. It’s easy to use Roger Goodell as a whipping boy, but it is much more difficult to take Uncle Sam to account. But make no mistake, domestic violence isn’t an NFL problem, it’s an American problem. And kicking dudes like Greg Hardy or Ray Rice out of the NFL isn’t a serious solution to that problem, it just provides a ceremonial piece of black flesh for a white media and consumer public that’s foaming at the mouth for sacrificial lambs. However, unlike Pavlov’s dog whose froth was generated by tapping into his audible senses, the unconscious American masses only react to visual stimulants. Others who have been accused of domestic violence in the NFL such as Chris Rainey, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Keelan Johnson, A.J. Jefferson, Amari Spivey and Leroy Hill don’t outrage us quite us much because there are no pictures accompanying their violent acts.
Sadly, it will only be a matter of time before some other athlete is in the headlines for similar misdeeds. Rather than only thinking like fucking capitalists all the time and believing that the marketplace offers the proper solution, let’s try some old-school democratic justice. If Greg Hardy lost his job after all, odds are he’d manage ok economically. But what he’d also be is free. Free to have a similar act in the future with another woman who may not be so fortunate next time. If this were to happen, surely Greg Hardy should be held to the highest account. But so should a legal system that gives dudes like this a slap on the wrist for the most grotesque of actions.
And so should all of us who ask more of our sports leagues than our legal system.
And whether you’re, me or Philadelphia Eagle, Lane Johnson; like it or not, the legal system has had its say with Greg Hardy. If you’re not happy about that, boycotting the NFL probably isn’t the smartest strategy to go about changing it.
Whatever the case, I hope that Greg Hardy learns the error of his ways. In spite of everyone’s collective haste to throw away the key to his redemption forever in this Christ-fearing land, I am living proof that that it is possible that Hardy can learn to do better. So although I think the legal system should be more proactive in going after these types of criminals, I also think that we need to slow our collective roles in rushing to play judge and jury over one another when things like this occur.
People fuck up and do dumb shit. They should be held to account. But they should also be given space to get better. The space to learn from their dumb shit and even help others not be as dumb in the future.
When the Ray Rice video became public (7 months after his actual crime), everyone said that Rice should go to jail, and that his girl should divorce him and break up another black family. When Janay Rice did otherwise, her character was put on trial; almost as much as her husband’s, as it was widely assumed that she only was staying in what “we all knew” to be a horribly dysfunctional marriage in order to reap the benefits of those phat NFL checks every two weeks.
Well, over a year later, by all accounts Ray Rice has not repeated his cowardly actions that were on display in Atlantic City that night. He has become a vocal spokesperson against domestic violence. And in spite of no longer having access to those NFL checks, his high school sweetheart is still by her man’s side, showing their children how grown folks work through their problems together.
We’re not excused from our worst moments no matter when they occur. Like most men who commit domestic violence in our society Ray Rice escaped severe legal justice, but has likely paid the price of forfeiting away his last few years as a player in the NFL. Life is about choices and consequences. Whether out of character or not, Ray Rice made a bad one that night in Atlantic City.
There is no intent here to persuade you to lose any sleep over Ray Rice. Or Greg Hardy. Or their choices. Beyond attempting to bring heightened attention to domestic violence and its victims, one of the core ideas that I do hope comes across is for us to all slow down the rate at which we hop on our high horses to banish someone from society. Because next time that someone might be you having your worst moment.
Peace and God bless,