Earlier this week, Ray Rice went on ESPN claiming to be “a rehabilitated man.” We all saw the infamous elevator videos and know the NFL mishandled his initial suspension. Everyone seems to have varying opinions on whether or not Rice should ever play in the NFL again. If it’s a matter of whether he should be in the public eye after what he did, then we in the media have all failed by continually talking about him and granting him interviews to go on TV and plea with owners to give him another opportunity.
This begs the question: Is Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident the worst offense that anyone in the NFL has ever committed? While that is up for debate, let’s take a look at some NFL “bad guys” who are still playing, despite some terrible allegations and convictions.
1. Michael Vick (Buffalo Bills?)
In April 2007, an investigation into the Bad Newz Kennel began. Everyone remembers watching the aerial views of investigators searching the 15-acre property in Virginia, owned by Michael Vick. After the investigation and the case was built, Vick and three other men were indicted. Vick plead guilty to the federal felony dogfighting conspiracy charge under plea bargain agreement and was sentenced to 23 months in prison. Vick still stands by his statement quoted in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I’m never at the house… I left the house with my family members and my cousin… They just haven’t been doing the right thing… It’s unfortunate I have to take the heat behind it. If I’m not there, I don’t know whats going on.” Yet he plead guilty.
The NFL suspended him indefinitely without pay for violating its player conduct policy. Vick wrote a letter to Roger Goodell and admitted his conduct was “not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible.” In July 2009, Vick was reinstated to the NFL on a conditional basis. He has since played for the Eagles (2009-2013) and the Jets (2014), playing in 64 total games. He’s currently looking for a team but his former coach in NY, Rex Ryan may be looking to pick him up. It’s not like people won’t touch him because of the whole dog fighting thing.
2. Greg Hardy (Dallas Cowboys)
Greg Hardy was originally suspended 10 games (reduced to 4) for allegedly beating and threatened to kill his then-girlfriend. Hardy was convicted but appealed the case. The court case was dropped after prosecutors could not locate the accuser. No accuser. No case. She had testified in July that she was scared of Hardy and worried about her safety if she went to police. Understandably worried considering she also testified that Hardy threw her in the bathroom and later on to a futon filled with guns. She also said he placed his hands on her throat and threatened to kill her. Hardy’s defense? His then-girlfriend became angry when he wouldn’t have sex with her and he left the room to sleep in the living room.
These accusations alone are terrifying that someone making millions in the NFL could be capable of such behavior. The difference between this domestic violence incident and Rice’s? Video evidence. We all saw what Ray did. Hardy gets the benefit of deniability.
3. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
Adrian Peterson has not played a single down in the NFL since Week 1 2014. No he wasn’t injured. He was accused of child abuse. Photos of the alleged abuse of Peterson’s 4-year-old son surfaced and spread like wildfire on the internet. Peterson was sidelined for nine games on paid leave while the child abuse case moved through the legal system. Peterson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless assault, admitting hitting his 4-year-old son with a switch. He was sentenced to two years probation with a number of conditions, included performing 80 hours of community service and “preparing and performing a public service announcement concerning child discipline.”
The League responded by giving Peterson an additional six-game suspension. Peterson was reinstated by Goodell on April 16. He has since returned and practiced with teammates in June and is currently at Vikings Training Camp.
On August 6th, a Texas judge terminated Peterson’s probation 15 months early after determining he fulfilled the requirements of said probation. Although there is controversy whether or not he did fulfill all of its requirements. Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon told Houston’s KHOU-11 that he plans on filing an appeal for the judge to reconsider the decision.
4. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Ben Roethlisberger has twice been accused of sexual assault. Twice in one year. He was never convicted of rape. He was never even charged. He was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a woman in Nevada in 2010 claiming Big Ben sexually assaulted her in July 2008. Roethlisberger’s attorney was confident that since there was no criminal complaint and a criminal investigation that that must mean that she had no case. “If an investigation is commenced, Ben will cooperate fully and Ben will be fully exonerated,” Cornwell said. Yet the case was settled out of court. Why would an innocent person settle out of court? The terms of the settlement are confidential but Ben seemed to have bought his way out of the situation. And that was just the first case.
The second incident was not pursued criminally either, although Roethlisberger admitted to having “sexual contact” with his accuser. Apparently the charge could not be proven without a reasonable doubt. Details are fuzzy on the case but when it’s the second accusation in a year, it seems a little suspicious. The league handed down a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Goodell later reduced the punishment to 4 games since Ben promised to try really hard and be a model citizen from then on.
5. Riley Cooper (Philadelphia Eagles)
Riley Cooper was attending a Kenny Chesney concert when he was caught on video dropping the n-word. “I will jump that fence and fight every [n-word] here, bro.” Who knows what he was so fired up about but that doesn’t even matter. He admitted he was drinking, not that that is ever a valid excuse. He apologized to everyone but in a league that is 68 percent black you have to think that not everyone forgave him. He was fined. Hulk Hogan was fired for a video that emerged from 8 years ago. Paula Deen has completely disappeared. This topic is even more sensitive today with racial tension fueling riots in Ferguson and Baltimore.