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MURRELL COLUMN: Moral compass often gets confused with precedence

Let’s just think about what happened a week ago: Deadspin released photos of visible marks left on Greg Hardy’s girlfriend Nicole Holder, reportedly 24 hours after she said he assaulted her in Charlotte, North Carolina, while he was still playing for the Panthers.

Interestingly enough, Deadspin’s release of the police evidence photos came just before his fourth game back from a four-game suspension — which was reduced from 10 — and a day after the related domestic violence charges against him were expunged from his record. Not immediately looking at the photos, it’s easy to understand the outcries against Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for harboring such a … oh, wait, let me not call Greg Hardy anything but Greg Hardy because he is not (on record) a woman beater.

Reviewing the precedents on such cases including Ray Rice (cut by the Ravens after video showed him beating his now-wife) and Ray McDonald (cut by the 49ers after a second arrest), it’s easy to understand. There’s no need to see any visibly horrible photos of such a beautiful woman scarred for no reason.

The world was only peaceful when Jones was viewed as vile only for being an incompetent football general manager who can’t keep his hand out of the cookie jar at times. Yeah, life in Cowboys Nation was only unsettling when Port Arthur’s Jimmy Johnson was chased out of his head coaching job by his own Arkansas teammate and three straight years the Cowboys finished 8-8 and failed to earn a playoff berth on the final week of the regular season.

Now, Jones has earned as much scrutiny on himself as Hardy for keeping him on the roster.

Not even the precedent surrounding Hardy’s case is enough for Jones to morally support keeping Hardy on the roster, even if he’s been cleared of charges or an arbiter reduced a 10-game suspension against him to four. The NFL reinstated Rice after the league and the Ravens cut him, but no other team has signed him since. McDonald is still out of a job after the Bears let him go in May following his arrest on domestic violence and child endangerment charges.

If Jones can prove in the end, however, that Hardy has improved himself first and foremost as a human being and he used any and all resources the Cowboys provide to help him accomplish that, Jones will only win against precedence.

So far, it appears Hardy has quite a ways to go. But, to his credit, we haven’t heard of any more physical or verbal altercations off the football field from him.

Whether or not the Cowboys had access to the now-publicly released photos of Holder, only the Cowboys know. As a Cowboys fan, I’m never against Jones giving a troubled man a second chance, as long as he doesn’t pose a threat to society. While I journalistically cannot label Hardy as a domestic abuser in this “free world,” there has to be some moral compass all teams should follow when making a player one of theirs.

Just ask the players of the University of Missouri football team about the difference between moral compass and precedence. The Tigers’ moral compass helped shed light on ongoing acts of racism on their campus by threatening a boycott of this Saturday’s game and eventually brought about change in university leadership.

A precedent, however could have prevented coach Gary Pinkel from standing by his players’ protests. Two years ago, Grambling State’s football players boycotted a game at Jackson State in protest of outdated and inadequate athletic facilities. The Southwestern Athletic Conference responded by fining Grambling State an undisclosed amount and forcing them to move their next two home games against Jackson State to Jackson, Mississippi. Grambling also forfeited the boycotted game.

It is not clear how the Southeastern Conference would have responded if Missouri made good on its threat, but its commissioner, Greg Sankey, did issue a statement in support of the student-athletes “for engaging on issues of importance.”

Precedence might have resulted in backlash against the MU players following their moral compass. There’s a stark difference.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or ic.murrell@gmail.com. On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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