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Panthers' Hardy Won't Play Until Domestic Violence Case Resolved

Michael Tomsic

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy will not play again until his domestic violence case is resolved. The Panthers announced Wednesday that the team, the NFL and Hardy agreed he should take a voluntary leave with pay. In July, a judge found Hardy guilty of two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence. Hardy appealed and is waiting on a jury trial.    

At the Carolina Panthers practice in Charlotte Wednesday, the players huddled up before splitting into offensive and defensive drills. The defense was missing one of its best players, Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy. Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman announced why later that afternoon. 

"Following discussions that involved Greg, his representatives, the NFL, the NFLPA and obviously the Panthers, Greg has decided to take a voluntary leave with pay until his legal proceedings are resolved," said Gettleman.

Hardy is scheduled for a jury trial in November on domestic violence charges. Until then, some Panthers fans say he should be able to play even though a judge already found him guilty in a bench trial. 

Outside practice, Charlotte Clarke said she's withholding judgment.

"Just from hearing the 911 tapes, I feel he did something in self defense, is what it sounds like to me. Because why are you going to beat the crap out of somebody and then call 911."

There are conflicting 911 calls from the dispute in May between Hardy and his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. Hardy called police and said Holder was attacking him. 

Another 911 call paints a very different picture. 

"I was in the apartment. He's beating her ass. We need the police here now, before this girl gets seriously hurt, now!" That was from the 911 call of Christina Lawrence, who says she heard what sounded like a body slamming up against a wall. 

Lawrence was an important part of the bench trial in July, in which Holder testified that Hardy choked her, dragged her by her hair from a bathtub, and threw her onto a futon with several guns on it. 

A county judge convicted Hardy of misdemeanor assault and threatening Holder. The judge stayed Hardy’s sentence because he appealed for a jury trial.  

Charlotte School of Law Professor Christopher Woodyard says, "Everything that took place in the first trial is essentially wiped out. It'll be a complete brand new trial before a brand new fact-finder."

In between the conviction and the jury trial, the NFL season began, and Hardy played in the Panthers’ first game.

ron rivera
Credit Michael Tomsic / WFAE
Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera.

Then last week, a video surfaced of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée. Amid the outrage that followed, Panthers’ Coach Ron Rivera declared Hardy inactive for the team’s second game. 

"The climate changed, and I had to make a decision on Sunday that I believe was prudent," stated Rivera.

Hardy joins the Minnesota Viking’s Adrian Peterson on the NFL’s exempt list, a previously rare designation that’s happened twice this week. Peterson has been indicted for child abuse.   

In the Panthers’ locker room before the announcement, many players said they were staying focused on football.

Veteran offensive lineman Ryan Kalil said he trusts management to make the right decision.  

"I think they'll do what's best for us ultimately. And whatever they'll decide, we'll support them."

Kalil said Hardy’s situation has led to discussions about domestic violence among some teammates, but he didn’t want to share personal stories.

And when General Manager Dave Gettleman was asked what it meant to lose a player of Hardy’s caliber, Gettleman said the bigger thing right now is the issue of domestic violence. 

"He's an outstanding player, obviously, and it's disappointing. But he's got to... we have to get this right. He has to get this right," Gettleman told media. 

In the meantime, Hardy will still get paid his $13 million salary. 

Panthers' Hardy Won't Play Until Domestic Violence Case Resolved
WFAE's Michael Tomsic reports on Greg Hardy case in this discussion Wednesday afternoon with All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey.