Have you ever seen the video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer in the face? The security camera footage is completely silent, but you can tell from their body language that they’re having a fight, even before they walk into the elevator. Once they get in there, they begin to shove each other. Rice moves to the other side of the elevator, and the fight seems to be over. Then, Palmer starts to walk towards him. Rice’s arm shoots out too quickly for the camera to really catch, and the next thing you know, Palmer is knocked out cold on the ground. Rice stands over her for a minute and, when he gets to his floor, pulls her out by her waist. He stands over her, moving her around with his feet, while hers still poke into the elevator. She wakes up a few minutes later.

Does that sicken you? It should. And, yet, for some, it’s not enough.

In the summer of 2014, Rice was indicted on third-degree aggravated assault. In a league where testing positive for the prescription drug Adderall can net you a four-game suspension, the NFL decided to suspend Rice for just two games. A few months later, just as the season was about to start, the video of the assault was made public on TMZ. Public outcry reached a fever pitch, and Rice’s suspension was extended to the entire season. Then, he was cut from the Baltimore Ravens. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti both claimed to have never seen the video, though those claims were later proved to be dubious.

Rice is out of the league for now, and the NFL has donned their requisite annual pink, while also directing a massive ad campaign aimed at women. Four women were hired to consult the NFL on domestic violence. And, yet, here we are, one season later, making the same mistakes.

Greg Hardy was a standout defensive end for the Carolina Panthers when he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, Nicole Holder. Holder reported that Hardy had thrown her off of a bed, again into a bathtub and then again onto a futon covered in assault rifles. Hardy proceeded to rip a necklace off of her, slam a toilet seat on her arm and drag her by her hair before choking her. Then, Hardy called 911 and falsely accused Holder of having been high on cocaine and instigating a fight. Hardy was arrested on the scene. He later appealed the conviction, and the charges were expunged from his record last week.

The Panthers (obviously) let him play in week one of the 2014 season before the public outcry became too great, and he was benched for the rest of the year (but never suspended). The Panthers declined to resign him after the season, though he didn’t have to wait long to find a new team, quickly signing a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Goodell suspended him for 10 games after a league investigation concluded that there was clear evidence that Hardy had violated NFL policy on assault. The NFL Players Association fought to reduce his suspension to four games, which was granted, and today, Hardy roams the field. His coach, his teammates and the owner of the team all continue to back him, even as Hardy continues to make comment after comment that suggest he’s failed to learn a thing from the entire ordeal. There were calls for the Cowboys to suspend or cut Hardy, but they were greatly outnumbered by those who suggested his aggression was now being channeled in a more productive way. But, then, the pictures came.

Deadspin released police photos last week that showed the extent of Holder’s injuries after Hardy attacked her. She’s covered head to toe in giant purple bruises, and each of the 48 photos show someone who was absolutely battered. Many of those commentators who once defended him have now changed their tune, advocating for his suspension or release from contract. Which is good, I suppose—people need to recognize the gravity of domestic violence, and maybe how they get there isn’t so important.

But, it is. The pictures shouldn’t make a difference in the public perception of Greg Hardy. It devalues and delegitimizes Holder’s words when no one will come to her defense unless they’re provided with what they determine to be the incontrovertible evidence of photos. Her testimony provided everything there was to know about what Hardy did, and yet there were still clearly public doubts about the authenticity of her account. Victims of domestic violence deserve our utmost support, and though that doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to evidence, it does mean their claims should be given the same weight as any. Cameras haven’t cornered the market on truth.

Bernstein is a member of

the class of 2018.



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