Arizona Cardinals running back, Jonathan Dwyer made headlines Wednesday evening, but for all the wrong reasons. At a time when the NFL, its teams, and players can ill afford anymore legal trouble, news of his arrest hit the press. The 25-year-old was brought in by the police for aggravated assault charges. The alleged incidents reportedly occurred on two occasions and involved Dwyer assaulting an unnamed 27-year-old women and her 18-month-old infant. With all of the recent negative publicity the NFL has received in the past few weeks, the timing of the second stringer’s incident is bewildering. As the latest NFL player to be arrested, Dwyer makes many want to question whether the latest string of incidences is simply a coincidence or if NFL players are perhaps more prone to domestic violence issues.
According to the Phoenix Police Department, the first physical altercation occurred in July, just prior to Cardinals’ training camp and was followed by another physical dispute the next day. Dwyer was charged with a count of aggravated assault, and caused a fracture to the female victim’s body. Another count involves an aggravated assault charge involving the minor.
Reports also indicated the former Miami Hurricanes’ star hid in the bathroom from police, after neighbors called the authorities because of the loud fighting. At the time, the victim denied Dwyer was inside the apartment, and stated an argument took place over the phone. On the following day, Dwyer allegedly tossed the 27-year-old’s phone outside their home in order to prevent her from calling the police. The sixth round pick of the 2010 NFL draft was deactivated by the Cardinals following his arrest.
The latest domestic violence incident comes at a crucial time for the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell. After admittedly failing to properly discipline Ray Rice, the commissioner was already on thin ice with his critics. After Rice was arrested for assaulting his then-fiancée Janay Palmer, Goodell initially issued a mere two game suspension. Palmer is now Mrs. Rice, as the couple married shortly after the incident.
The commissioner changed his tune on the running back’s punishment in late August. A TMZ video of Rice knocking out Palmer went viral this month. When the news hit, Goodell and the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely, and the running back was cut from the Baltimore Ravens squad. Unfortunately for the league, the peculiar timing of the NFL’s change of heart left critics speculating that Rice’s punishment was only altered to appease the public. When word that the NFL viewed the entire video and were aware of the circumstances for months spread, many became outraged over his minor punishment of Rice and harsher punishments for substance abuse. The NFL issued a new domestic violence protocol under Goodell, while the league was in limbo on the Rice scandal. However, the new policy has not helped to minimize the damage from the recent prevalence of domestic violence incidents amongst its players.
Just last week Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson was arrested and indicted on multiple felony counts of child abuse. The former MVP, allegedly beat and injured his 4-year old son with a tree branch. The Vikings deactivated the star for last Sunday’s game against the Patriots, before they controversially re-activated him. Similarly to the Rice, public outcry for Goodell’s resignation and a suspension for Peterson caused mounting pressure for the Vikings and the NFL.
After corporate sponsors and charitable foundations associated with the Vikings expressed their discontent and pulled support, it became abundantly clear that allowing him to play would not bode well for the team or NFL’s outlook. The running back also lost his Castrol endorsement and Nike suspended their contract Peterson’s legal issues are cleared up. Peterson eventually agreed to an indefinite paid leave of absence to deal with his personal and legal matters. He has been placed on the Exempt List. The special sanction bans a player from participating in all team related activities, until their legal problems are rectified, without forgoing salary.
During a week in which many NFL players were prone to domestic violence arrests, Carolina Panthers defensive end, Greg Hardy was already convicted in such a case. Hardy was also placed on the commissioner’s Exempt List by the team on Wednesday. He is currently appealing his convictions for assault on a female and making verbal threats. According to court reports, Hardy beat his girlfriend, Nicki Holder, and slammed her on a sofa filled with guns. The defensive end then threatened to kill Holder. Hardy holds the franchise tag for the Panthers and made the Pro Bowl in 2013. After being convicted on July 16 by a judge, he is now awaiting his requested jury trial.
Currently San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald appears to be the only active player in the NFL with a pending domestic violence issues. The 49ers have not disciplined McDonald, despite his Aug. 31 domestic violence related arrest. He has not been charged, but reports indicate the fight was with his pregnant fiancée.
There is no definitive causal link between domestically violent prone acts like Dwyer’s and other NFL players as of yet, but the more cases that pile up this season, the more the narrative may change. Each player and situation has its own unique circumstances, rationale, and background. Regardless of public outrage and skeptical thinking, knowing most of the facts in a domestic violation situation is crucial to formulating an argumentative opinion. While the job of the NFL commissioner requires that penalties be enforced to adequately reflect the seriousness of the offense, ultimately it is the responsibility of the players as individuals to control themselves off the field. Condoning violence or abuse of any kind can cause detrimental harm to the league however, before the NFL can hold players accountable for what they do in society, players need to take the brunt of that burden themselves by making better decisions.
Commentary by Brandon Wright