Is the NFL Doing a Good Job of Stopping Domestic Violence?

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 Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Unlike the NFL's most publicized moment of last year — when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his then finacé, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City casino elevator — there was no camera filming the night Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested for allegedly roughing up his girlfriend. There were no bruises or cuts or other evidence — only her account of what happened, and his. Both their claims, precluded by lines of cocaine and bottles of booze, were not without their holes.

Hardy was found guilty of domestic abuse in July, but the charges were dismissed last month when authorities were unable to locate Holder, who stopped cooperating with lawyers long ago. Now Hardy, an NFL All-Pro who was cut by the team amid the allegations, will have to prove himself again with the Dallas Cowboys, who signed Hardy to a deal Wednesday worth a possible $13 million this season (the large majority coming through incentives and weekly roster bonuses while the team determines if they can trust their investment).

Whether he did it or not, the same dark cloud that hangs over Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Dez Bryant, Ray McDonald, and a host of lesser names, now covers Greg Hardy. But if any positive news can come from these incidents, it's that the overwhelming majority of NFL players arrested for domestic violence never show up on the police blotter for the same offense again.

According to the American Bar Association, while 62 percent of all people arrested for domestic violence are rearrested within two years for the same crime, NFL players don't follow the trend: Of the 92 players arrested for domestic violence since 2000, only five were ever charged with the crime again. Sam Brandon (two arrests), Dwayne Carswell (two), Larry Johnson (two), Brandon Marshall (four), and Michael Pittman (three) are the only ones.

Of all crimes, domestic violence has the highest repeater rate in the general public, especially in the weeks after an incident is reported to the police, according to another study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. But likely due to the Ray Rice video, domestic violence has gotten increased play in the media. The Ravens, Vikings, and Panthers have, after coming to their senses, stood up against the bullies, and the Bucs shied away from signing Hardy because, as GM Jason Licht admitted, he "didn't feel good about it." Only Dallas stepped forward, and owner Jerry Jones has been criticized since announcing the deal. 

Despite the public criticism, the stats have a possibly hopeful tale, that there are few repeat offenders in the NFL. The reasons, of course, aren't readily apparent: There may be genuine remorse, fear of public scrutiny, the realization that one more bad night can end a lucrative career, or an army of coaches, teammates, and lawyers keeping an eye on the player. The only thing we do now is that, on paper, NFL players are rarely repeat offenders while they're still in the league. Unfortunately those numbers don't represent the players who damage their careers or walk away from the game, only those, like Hardy and Peterson, talented enough to be brought back to the fold despite their past incidents.