(Josh Brown photo courtesy of New York Giants)
By Ron Borges
Talk of Fame Network
The slippery slope the NFL embarked on when it first tried to whitewash the domestic violence case involving Ray Rice several years ago when it got all high and mighty about its alleged low tolerance for such abusers has come back to haunt it in the sad case of New York Giants’ kicker Josh Brown.
In Rice’s case, the league initially gave him a slap on the wrist for a punch in the face to his then-fiancée (and now wife) before a videotape of the incident emerged. Then it doubled down by violating every constitutionally-protected right he had against double jeopardy by banning him from pro football after it had punished him once for the same offense.
The truth of the matter is, pro football is never going to properly adjudicate nor solve the ongoing problem of domestic violence. It can ban every perpetrator, or everyone even accused of domestic violence, and it will neither solve this problem nor end it.
It is a societal issue, not an athletic one. However, what the NFL can do is what it has never done, which is to be consistent.
Either police intervention and substantive proof, as was available in both Rice’s case and Brown’s, leads to a fixed penalty, or it does not. If it does, it should be the same for all accused. If it does not, then stop the empty rhetoric about leading the way in such matters.
The truth is: Professional sports is neither equipped nor inclined to serve in that capacity. What it can do, and should do beginning with the Brown case, is come up with a uniform manner to proceed … and then do so. If the penalty is six games minimum, as the league once seemed to indicate, then apply it, and that’s that.
But things are never quite that simple anymore. At least not in the NFL.
Brown, as you may know, is the troubled New York Giants’ placekicker accused of abusing his now ex-wife repeatedly over the past half-decade. His latest incident resulted in a police confrontation, a divorce and a one-game suspension earlier this year, with the league claiming it could not do more because no one would cooperate with its investigators.
The latter seems odd, as it did when the same claim was made in the Ray Rice case, because those persons the NFL sought seem to be cooperating with media outlets across the land. The NFL can’t get a videotape, but TMZ can. The NFL can’t get police cooperation, but the New York Daily News and USA Today can.
Please, child, stop.
Through all of this, Giants’ owner John Mara, usually a principled man by the NFL’s lenient definition of such, has done nothing. In fact, when he was excoriated for re-signing Brown even though he was aware of the charges, Mara said he was “comfortable’’ with his decision.
Wonder if he still feels that way? Apparently not, because the Giants on Thursday prevented Brown from accompanying them to London, site of their next game.
The reason is simple. It came to light that Brown admitted during therapy in 2013 to abusing his wife repeatedly, writing in a journal and, apparently, to others that, “I have physically, verbally and emotionally abused my wife.’’ This was part of a so-called “Contract for Change’’ written on March 28, 2013 and signed by himself, his then-wife and a counselor.
Obviously, it was a contract that didn’t change much.
In other writings of the time, Brown claimed to have been abused at the age of 6, an abuser by 7 (which seems difficult to fathom) and, basically, someone who has objectified and abused women most of his adult life.
These writings were acquired by various media outlets, which calls a lot of things into question but not their validity. Now the Giants and the NFL fiddle like Nero as the shield burns, unsure what to do next because their hypocritical stance has again been exposed. Both have said they will re-examine his case.
But where is the line drawn in these issues? With charges made? With charges formally filed? With a conviction? When deals are cut to avoid conviction? When no one is sure what really went on but knows clearly something did?
In the cases of Rice and Brown, it eventually became obvious what happened. Rice was outed by video surveillance cameras. Brown was outed by his own writings. So now what?
Thursday morning, half-a-day after the latest revelations, Ray Rice remained a man without a football career for what allegedly was a one-time loss of self-control while Brown, a multi-time abuser by his own admittance, seemed to be on his way to London — before, that is, the Giants intervened at the last moment. This is the kind of insanity that results from an at-best amoral sports league trying to portray itself as some sort of morality play … when all it really cares about is the next play.
The truth is this case is an easy one to handle. The Giants need only ask “What would Wellington do?’’ One can never be totally sure how the late Giants’ owner would have reacted, but there’s a good chance he would have said he simply didn’t want someone who did such things to his wife as an employee and fire him.
Might there be salary cap implications? Yes, but so what?
Might there be on-field implications? Yes, but so what?
Might there even be an NFLPA grievance filed? Yes, but so what?
Sometimes if you just do the right thing in the first place what follows is manageable. It may not be pleasant, and it may not come without consequences. But it brings a peace of mind that allows the rest to be handled with aplomb.
The NFL suspended Greg Hardy despite his former girlfriend refusing to testify against him after he abused her in the most heinous of ways. It didn’t need cops or a court to make a determination. It made one.
The NFL suspends anyone in its drug program simply for missing a test. It doesn’t need anything more to make that determination.
The NFL suspended Tom Brady for 25 percent of the season because air escaped some footballs. Although the NFL knows not how that happened, it smelled a rat and made a determination. It didn’t wait for a court or a lab experiment.
Now we have this case, in which it seems to be saying Josh Brown was never convicted of what he clearly admits to having done for years. Yet both the Giants and the league for too long were unable … or unwilling … to make a determination of what the right path was to follow. This is what happens when you tell the world you’re one thing when you are quite another.
Such things are not easy issues to wrestle with on one level. I’m sure there are domestic abusers in every walk of life, many continuing to work long after being charged with domestic abuse. So the questions I have are these: First, is it professional sports’ job to hold its employees to a standard we don’t seem to demand of less high-profile occupations?
Second, and more important, does someone like John Mara really have to be told a guy like Josh Brown is not the kind of man he wants representing his brand?
If the answer to the latter question is that he does, we’re all in deeper trouble than I thought.