When the Cowboys signed Hardy on Wednesday, Rawlings called the Cowboys to discuss the signing, the Dallas Morning News reported Thursday. He said the team told him it did extensive background checks into Hardy and structured his contract so that the player would need to fall in line in order to be paid handsomely.
Last spring a North Carolina judge found Hardy guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder, but the verdict was set aside when Hardy requested a jury trial. Charges were dropped when Holder refused to cooperate with the district attorney's office after receiving a financial settlement from Hardy.
Hardy, who signed a one-year, $11.3 million deal with the Cowboys, remains on the commissioner's exempt list and could be suspended for part of the 2015 season under the league's personal conduct policy.
"I'm a big Cowboys fan. I love them to death and I want them to beat the Eagles every time they play," Rawlings told reporters. "But at some point, being a sports fan gets trumped by being a father, husband, wanting to do what's right for women, so this is not a good thing. I don't think I'm going to be buying Hardy jerseys any time soon."
Rawlings said the Cowboys' decision to sign Hardy makes him "take pause," after some of the good the team has done in the areas of curbing domestic violence.
"I think the attention on this issue is helping," Rawlings said. "For too long, that line was really vague. It was a gray area. I think that line is getting very clear now. You never, never, never hit a woman. In this case common knowledge says he did. It's unacceptable by me and he's going to have to deal with the repercussions of that. I'm sorry that happened for the woman. I'm sorry that happened for him, but it did and we've got to deal with it going forward now."
Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a social activist group, said Hardy's signing represents another misstep by the NFL.
"Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is right: Signing a domestic abuser is a 'shot in the gut' to fans and especially survivors," Chaudhary said. "This latest failure to stop rewarding abusers is just one of many by the NFL under Commissioner Goodell's leadership. It's time for the NFL to move beyond words and take a real stand against domestic violence by dropping both Hardy and Goodell, for good."
Rawlings said he does not believe the NFL deals with social issues well, but it does respond to the marketplace. The league has stepped up its commitment to fighting domestic violence in response to several off-the-field incidents in the past year by strengthening its personal conduct policy and releasing several public service announcements.
The mayor has employed current and former Cowboys in his efforts to curtail domestic violence with his Dallas Men Against Abuse campaign.
Rawlings called himself a big believer in redemption and hopes Hardy can be an advocate in ending abuse in the future.
"I hope he will be in 10 years a person we look back and say he changed a lot of kids' lives because he dealt with the issue, he talked about it and he owned up to it," Rawlings said. "I hope that's the case."
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban supported the Cowboys' decision to sign Hardy, as long as they follow through with the necessary support system to address his issues.
"You can't just throw people away," Cuban said Friday. "What are you going to say about Greg Hardy? You can't ever get a job? The question is, is he working with a counselor? Is he going through support programs? Is there somebody there, if he's got a significant other, if they're working with them? And making sure he really is rehabbing himself.
"If a guy is an alcoholic, we'll work with him. If he's a drug addict, we'll work with him. If a guy is in a hit-and-run accident, we'll work with him. If a guy has domestic abuse [problems], some people want to throw him away. And you can't throw your mistakes to the curb.
"At some point, somebody's got to take responsibility for him. So if what the Cowboys are doing is putting together a whole support team to make sure, then more power to them. They did the exact right thing. But they probably should have been more vocal."
ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.