In states like Montana, most people choose the closest NFL team to call their own, so I spent my childhood surrounded by Broncos and Seahawks fans. But because my daddy grew up in Texas, he was a born and bred Dallas Cowboys fan, and he raised me with the same devotion.
I learned the basic rules of football before I learned to read and I learned them sitting on the couch with my daddy watching Tom Landry's team. He taught me that true fans don't give up on a team, even when they are 1-15. I learned the sweet success of three Super Bowl championships. Eventually I moved to Denton, Texas right down the road from Texas stadium. My wedding colors were silver and blue and I seriously considered naming my firstborn Emmitt, even if it wasn't a boy.
In March, the Cowboys signed Greg Hardy to a one-year contract after domestic violence conviction left him sidelined in North Carolina for all but one game. Unlike the Ravens' owner, who we can assume didn't know that Ray Rice beat his then fiance until a video emerged of him knocking her out cold on an elevator, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones had full knowledge of Hardy's conviction and still opted to sign a contract with him.
Perhaps worse than that, in the midst of the inevitable backlash, Jones sent his daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson, to comment on the signing.
“We don't believe in throwing people away,” Anderson told the Dallas Morning News. “The experts have told us it is far better to provide a way out, coupled with educational and rehabilitative services and therapy. That does more to protect the victim and prevent future violence than a zero tolerance policy. We have to trust the advice of the experts. I embrace that.”Having not spoken with Ms. Anderson myself, I can't say for sure which experts she is quoting, but I worked for SafeHaven of Tarrant County at the time Hardy was signed. It is the only domestic violence shelter in Tarrant County, home of the Cowboys, and I can say for sure no one from the Cowboys organization reached out to us.
While it is true that batterers can and should seek help (SafeHaven provides such a program), no amount of education or therapy can break the cycle of abuse unless the batterer admits he is at fault, because abuse is not about hitting. Abuse is about power. And Greg Hardy has all of the power. From the moment he threw his girlfriend onto a stack of guns, put his hands around her neck and threatened to kill her, to the day he signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys, to this week, when he won his appeal, reducing his ten-game suspension to four games.
And every time he puts on the Cowboys Star, the owners and coaches are telling him that what he did is okay.
And so are we.
When the Ray Rice video surfaced, it gave domestic violence a face, and America was outraged. The NFL assured us that things would be different. More education and stricter penalties. But eventually the rage faded, and with it, the NFL's resolve to stand by victims of abuse faded as well.
So I'm making my own stand. And for a team whose fan base is America, I know it won't mean much. Jerry won't miss my minuscule contribution to his bottom line. But it matters to me, and that is the most important thing. My daddy taught me that too.
1 in 4 women will be abused in their lifetime. If you or someone you know is being abused, go to thehotline.org.