(CNN) — Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted of domestic violence this summer, won’t play Sunday against the Detroit Lions after being placed on the inactive list, the team announced Sunday on Twitter.
The news comes amid increased focus on the National Football League and the way it handles players accused of domestic violence.
Until the team’s surprising announcement just before game time, Hardy was set to play Sunday, while Ray Rice, recently released by the Baltimore Ravens, and Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson won’t.
Peterson was placed on the inactive list late last week after he was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on a child abuse charge.
Rice, meanwhile, might never play again, since the NFL suspended him indefinitely after a video was posted online that showed him punching out his now-wife in February.
Critics had wondered how Rice could be suspended while Hardy had not. Authorities say Hardy in May choked his then-girlfriend, threw her around, dragged her by her hair and threatened to kill her.
Hardy — 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds — says he is innocent, and he has appealed a guilty verdict rendered by a Mecklenburg County judge.
“Shame on the Panthers for letting Hardy play. Shame on the NFL for not stopping it,” USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan had written.
“If there were a Greg Hardy video, would Greg Hardy be playing Sunday?” Sports Illustrated had asked.
“It’s ridiculous,” CNN commentator and legal analyst Mel Robbins said. She commended the Minnesota Vikings, who sidelined Peterson — one of the top players in the league — who was indicted on felony charges alleging he had hurt his child “with criminal negligence or recklessly” under the guise of discipline.
The NFL should suspend players, with pay, when they are arrested, not wait as the league is doing with the Hardy case, Robbins said. The player should sit out during the criminal and league investigations.
“And why that’s important is because the NFL is in the business of making money off a game where guys fight over a ball. They are not ever going to be in the business of finding the truth about their players and what they’re doing in their private lives,” she said.
The league should have the same zero tolerance policy it has for players who use performance-enhancing drugs, she added.
The league has announced a new policy that covers domestic violence and other types of assaults. It says anyone in the league — players or team personnel — will be suspended for a minimum of six games for a first offense of domestic violence.
Hardy was sentenced in July in a one-day bench trial. He received 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence for the misdemeanors he was charged with.
“If the NFL is saying there hasn’t been disposition (of the case), I think they’re ducking the issue,” Belmont Abbey law professor Steve Ward told Sports Illustrated. Ward, who is a former prosecutor in Charlotte, North Carolina, told SI that fewer than 5% of bench trials are appealed and Hardy is manipulating the system.
“Too bad the Minnesota Vikings leadership can’t take over the Panthers for a few hours and show them how to make a simple decision. The Vikings get it,” Brennan, the USA Today columnist, wrote.
Instead the Panthers had drawn heated criticism even while speaking out against domestic violence. Owner Jerry Richardson, while accepting a civic award last week, began to cry while speaking about domestic violence.
“When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple,” he told the audience in Charlotte. “To those who would suggest we’ve been too slow to act, I ask that you consider not to be too quick to judge.”
Charlotte Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler said it is time to put weight into those words.
The team should do now what it should have done after he was convicted, Fowler said: Suspend him. “Even if the NFL Players Association appealed successfully on Hardy’s behalf and he didn’t miss time, at least the Panthers would have sent the correct message,” Fowler wrote.
According to the NFL’s personal conduct policy, players like Rice or the players union can appeal a suspension. Rice has until Tuesday at midnight to appeal.
If his suspension is upheld, Rice can apply for reinstatement after 11 months.
Rice is in a pretrial intervention program that means he can avoid trial if he successfully completes the requirements of the agreement he made with authorities in New Jersey. In that case, the domestic violence charge will be removed from his record.
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