Innocent Until Proven Guilty? Not in the Court of Public Opinion: The Double Standard facing the Dallas Cowboys

Gregory Hardy was born on July 28, 1988. He was the drafted with the 179th pick by the Carolina Panthers. He has 204 tackles, 34.0 sacks, and has forced 7 fumbles in his NFL career. Hardy was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2013. On the field Hardy is dominant. Off the field is a different story.

On May 13, 2014, Hardy was arrested on charges of domestic violence in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina. On July 15, 2014, after a bench trial, Judge Rebecca Thorn-Tin found Hardy guilty of the charges and sentenced him to 18 months of probation and a suspended 60-day jail sentence. Hardy immediately appealed his conviction. On February 9, 2015, the prosecution dropped the charges against Hardy citing lack of witness cooperation. The dismissal of charges wiped out the underlying conviction; in the eyes of the judicial system Hardy was not guilty of any crime.

On March 18, 2015, Hardy signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys. The contract is for one year and carries a salary of $750,000. Hardy can earn a total of $13.1 million through a series of options, bonuses, and incentives.

Though Hardy won his battle in the court of law, he has been less successful in the court of public opinion. The Dallas Cowboys have undergone an extreme amount of scrutiny and public outcry criticizing the team’s willingness to employ Hardy after his legal battle. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, an avid Cowboys fan, was publically critical of the deal. “I’m a big Cowboys fan. I love them to death and I want them to beat the Eagles every time they play,” Rawlings told reporters.

“But at some point, being a sports fan gets trumped by being a father, husband, wanting to do what’s right for women, so this is not a good thing. I don’t think I’m going to be buying Hardy jerseys any time soon.”

Legally, Hardy is innocent. The crimes of which he was accused of simply could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. His dominance on the field is unquestioned. The Cowboys are a better football team with the inclusion of Greg Hardy. Should the Cowboys be punished for relying on the judicial system in the face of public opinion?

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