ESPN aired a segment Tuesday featuring Adam Schefter interviewing Greg Hardy regarding his domestic abuse allegations, and while Hardy’s public image probably stayed largely the same, Schefter and ESPN both found themselves under fire as soon as the interview concluded.
In the interview, Hardy vehemently denied the allegations of domestic abuse, telling Schefter that pictures can be manipulated, referencing the damning set of photos obtained and released by Deadspin last November that showed deep bruising on the shoulders and neck of his accuser. When asked why he believes Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back and subject in one of the most public cases of domestic abuse of the past decade, was not allowed a second chance in the league while Hardy was, he offered the following response, per the Dallas Morning News:
“I don’t want to compare situations, but I would say that’s the story of an innocent man and a guilty man.”
The segment was not a complete surprise to viewers and other online observers when it aired Tuesday — Hardy had already been slammed on Twitter by former teammate Steve Smith Sr., for his out-right denial of abuse in a snippet that was released Monday. However, the extent to which Hardy denied his role as abuser as well as ESPN’s decision to grant him the interview when no pressing matter required one were both openly criticized.
ESPN’s SportsNation co-host Michelle Beadle, who has spoken out before about ESPN brass and other media types, was vocal on the matter following the full segment’s airing Tuesday, criticizing both ESPN and Schefter for their parts in the interview. According to NBC Sports’s Pro Football Talk, Beadle used her on-air time to address the matter, questioning why the company felt the need to assist Hardy with what she viewed as a fluff piece:
“I feel dirty in that this guy has no job right now, and for some reason we’ve decided as a network that we’re going to give him the stage for his redemption tour as he basically goes out and tries to find some employment,” Michelle Beadle said on Tuesday’s SportsNation. “I don’t understand why we’re doing that. If he wants to figure out a way to get his message out there — which by the way, he hasn’t said he did anything wrong, so how a man is supposed to convince anybody he’s changed and yet not admit to actually doing anything? I have no idea. But why we’re giving him the forum to go out there and tell anybody that is where I’m a little bit confused.”
Beadle’s criticism was one shared by many via social media Tuesday. Vast swaths of the displeasure voiced Tuesday were directed at the company that allowed Hardy the platform. As Hardy is a current free agent and has not been in the news for any notable appearances or comments in the past month, the choice by ESPN to fly Schefter to Mississippi to give Hardy an opportunity to declare his innocence rang hollow to many. While there has been news reported speculating where Hardy will land next season, it was done so mostly adjacent of his history of abuse allegations, making the Schefter interview puzzling to some and infuriating to many.
Schefter later went on the Dan Patrick Show to offer some background on what he believes he discovered — that Hardy was not a “monster” because he was not rude and did not scare the ESPN reporter — which led to him to offer the following comments regarding Hardy’s character.
“I went in there with the idea that everybody had, that this guy’s a monster, okay? I went in there thinking that this is one of the scariest people in the NFL. And I came out of there with a very different feeling about him. I came out of there with a feeling that this is a guy who has managed to say the wrong things at the wrong times, has not always made the right decisions. But I found him to be a changed kind of guy, a guy that I think realizes he did make a mistake, could have handled things differently in regards to that incident. It’s such a tough thing. I’d like to talk to more people before I made a judgement. All I can go by is what he said. I’ll say this; he wasn’t wavering, he was adamant, ‘I never touched this woman.’”
The comments did not sit well with Beadle and other members of the sports media, and, like Smith, they took to Twitter, this time in droves, to voice their opinion on ESPN’s handling of the entire situation as well as Schefter’s comments on Hardy being “a changed kind of guy.” As Schefter, per his interview, does not appear to have an extensive personal relationship with Hardy and has hardly been at the frontline of sexual assault reporting, both the decisions to conduct the interview and speak in favor of Hardy directly afterwards were called out on social media.
For the love of f&$@. Dude doesn’t admit to wrongdoing. Dude has changed? I give the hell up.
— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) April 5, 2016
Greg Hardy either got really bad advice or he got none and is an idiot.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) April 5, 2016
I don’t know whether Schefter’s take on Hardy is the result of donned blinders or ignorance, and I also don’t know which would be worse.
— Holly Anderson (@HollyAnderson) April 5, 2016
The idea that an abuser has to be a monster to everyone he meets, and not just his victim, to be held accountable is incredibly pernicious.
— Caitlin Kelly (@caitlin__kelly) April 5, 2016
“A changed kind of guy.” What are your metrics, @AdamSchefter?? Are you an expert on abusers’ behavior now?
— Jessica Luther (@scATX) April 5, 2016
If ESPN decided on its own to send Schefter to interview Hardy instead of Rachel Nichols or Jeremy Schapp or Bob Ley, well, that’s a problem
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) April 5, 2016
Nicole Holder, Hardy’s ex-girlfriend involved in the May 2014 domestic abuse incident, released a statement after preview snippets of the interview were released Monday, in which she asked not to be contacted by the media as she attempts to move forward with her life.
“I have worked very hard to distance myself from the media. I have relocated twice, changed my phone number more times than I can remember — I’ve even considered legally changing my name. In four weeks I will be graduating from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Operations Management. My focus is on finding a job, which has had its own unique challenges because of the news coverage related to my name. I am trying to move forward with my life and am asking the media to respect my privacy and wishes.”