Greg Hardy isn't really sorry. His 207-character apology via Twitter about "what happened in the past" rang hollow. He had 18 months to come up with an authentic apology for what happened the night of May 12, 2014, when he allegedly threatened girlfriend Nicole Holder, beat her up and threw her on a pile of assault rifles.
He could have apologized when he was placed on the commissioner's exempt list. He could have apologized after he was suspended for 10 games, or when his suspension was reduced to four games after appeal. Instead, when commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the initial 10-game suspension, Hardy chose to retweet only followers who supported him, including this one, who said, "If [Hardy] beat a woman you would see severe injuries not minor." And anyone who called him out? Blocked. Hardy left AT&T Stadium after Sunday's game without talking to reporters, cowardly avoiding confrontation.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has enabled Hardy's belief that his on-field abilities outweigh his off-the-field issues. It's the only logical way for him to commend Hardy's "leadership." But leaders own up to their actions. Leaders take stands. Ray Rice has taken such a stand against domestic violence. It makes sense from a football and personal perspective for Hardy to follow Rice's example.
After his own incident with his then-fiancée, Janay, to whom he's now married, Rice said he came to realize the magnitude of his actions. Since then, he has taken steps to try to right his wrongs, including going through counseling and speaking publicly about how serious an issue domestic violence is. The co-founders of a national organization that encourages men to end violence against women, who have worked with Rice since the incident, see how Rice has held himself accountable.
"To the survivors of domestic violence, I understand how real it is, and I don't want to ever take that for granted because this is a real issue in our society," Rice said in an interview in early August. "My video put the light out there -- if you have never seen what domestic violence looks like and you look at my video, I could understand why some people would never forgive me."
Of course, Rice has not had the benefit of a second chance, though he has tried. And you can be cynical that, after his first attempts to sign with a team failed, his initial apology and advocacy were borne out of trying to rehabilitate his image. Would he be so outspoken if he were given the second chance that Hardy has been given?
But Rice's words and actions since show that he seems to genuinely understand how his actions have affected others, including Janay and his daughter, Rayven, and he has taken on the responsibility of trying to make things right again.
"I want to work my whole life so my daughter, when she's old enough to Google my name and Google what happened, I'll be able to change the tune on that because I want to be able to help others never make the decision I made," Rice said.
Even if he doesn't get a second chance to play in the NFL, Rice says he still wants to put an end to domestic violence, and that's something he can do whether he returns to the field or not. He has, in his words and his actions, become a rehabilitated man.
Second chances should be reserved only for those who have earned them -- people who have learned from their mistakes and have taken steps to act upon them. People who understand how their actions impacted others and then try to make amends for them. Hardy hasn't appeared to feel an ounce of remorse since the incident, though he has cared enough to clear his name by the letter of the law. (The case against Hardy has been expunged.)
When the Cowboys signed Hardy to a one-year contract in March, Jones said his organization "understands the very serious nature of domestic violence in our society and in our league. We know that Greg has a firm understanding of those issues as well," Jones said. But as we've seen, that doesn't appear to be the case.
So what happens when Hardy becomes a free agent at season's end? What team, with everything out in the public now, would willingly take a chance on him, knowing he hasn't learned anything over the past year and a half? Will his talent be enough?
The only way Hardy can possibly earn a second chance is if he models himself after Rice.
Playing football has an expiration date, while being an activist is something Rice will be able to do for the rest of his life. If Hardy cares only about football, as he has in the past, that's all he'll have left.