I have been asked repeatedly this week how I would handle Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy's situation if he were a client.
It is a reach in the first place, given that for 40 years I have taken clients who agree to serve as role models, retrace their roots and have a positive impact on society. An athlete needs to understand that he is involved in a business that relies on fan excitement and willingness to watch and attend games and buy merchandise.
History is replete with examples of athletes who have engaged in misconduct and gone on to live productive lives on and off the field. What is necessary is to break denial and defensiveness and admit wrongdoing. If an athlete takes responsibility for his actions, apologizes to all the relevant constituencies, states the correct standard of behavior which he has failed, and shows steps to prevent a recurrence, the healing can begin.
If an athlete is not willing to comport himself off the field in an acceptable way -- there is a simple antidote -- play on a sandlot and don't worry about rules, judgment and fans. Young men in their maturation years make mistakes. Sports doesn't throw athletes on the trash heap of history for a mistake. But it starts with an awareness in the athlete that they have erred.
Greg Hardy has done virtually none of this.
Here was what Greg Hardy posted as his first Twitter post, a statement to the public: "Innocent until proven guilty. Lack of information is just ignorance--The unjust/prejudicial treatment of diff [sic] categories of people is discrimination."
— Adam Mumma (@AdamMumma89) November 11, 2015
Discrimination? Rosa Parks would roll over in her grave.
Hardy was convicted by a judge for domestic violence. According to the prosecutors, a deal was made with the victim to stop her from testifying. Hardy appealed the case, and with no charging witness, the case was dismissed. In my opinion, he was not innocent, the justice system failed. Then the NFL correctly dealt with the situation by banning Hardy for ten games this season. In a shocking decision, an arbitrator dropped the penalty to four games. Four games is what the NFL penalized Tom Brady for allegedly instructing someone to slightly deflate footballs. The NFL disciplinary procedure failed.
Then Hardy showed how he valued the feelings of his teammates by berating them on the sidelines during a game. He entered a special teams huddle during the game and made abusive and threatening comments to a coach. The response was to call him a leader and publicly offer him a lucrative contract extension. Once again, the system failed. Why would Greg Hardy believe that any of the standard norms of on or off the field behavior applied to him? Why would he think there were any consequences or limitations in how he acts.
If I represented Greg Hardy, I would tell him that continuing to represent him would require certain understandings and behavior. First, he would have to acknowledge that his actions taken toward a woman are unacceptable and wrong. He would apologize to her and to the public. He would enroll in anger management or domestic violence courses to insure that there was not recidivism. He would get counseling. He would agree to become a spokesman for the prevention of domestic violence. And he would agree to show respect to teammates, coaches and his football organization. Or I would terminate his representation.
We don't require everyone in sports to live perfect lives. I've done things I regret and athletes make mistakes. We try to make amends and learn from them. Sports is supposed to teach positive life lessons. One of them is decency.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.