By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The NFL, for all of its empty promises and bankrupt claims of holding itself to a high standard, does not care about domestic violence.
Ever since the Ray Rice video exposed a disturbing culture of cover-up in the league office, commissioner Roger Goodell has stated time and time again that the NFL must and will improve its protocol for handling domestic violence. That pledge rings silent today, in the wake of newly uncovered news about Giants kicker Josh Brown.
Ralph Vacchiano, who covers the Giants for SNY, obtained journal entries, emails and letters in which Brown admitted to bouts of physical violence and emotional abuse with his ex-wife.
Brown wrote in a letter:
"Because I never handled these underlying issues I became an abuser and hurt Molly physically, emotionally and verbally. I viewed myself as God basically and she was my slave."
In another letter, he wrote:
"I have physically, verbally and emotionally abused my wife Molly. ... I have controlled her by making her feel less human than me, and manipulated her with money. ... I have disregarded my step sons' feelings and they have witnessed me abusing their mother."
And in an email, he wrote:
"I am sure there were several moments of panic for the boys and wondering if they were in a safe place with me. I am sure you were afraid to tell me how you truly felt because you feared my reaction. … I have struck fear in your heart and not love, compassion or friendship. From the bruise on your leg when we argued … to the zipper that caught you last April. I am ashamed and disgraced to call myself a husband."
This was information obtained by a football reporter. Yet the NFL -- which has shown in recent years that it will invest upwards of $10 million into an investigation if it really wants to punish a player for a violation of league policy -- somehow could not obtain this information. Despite its unlimited resources, its multiple domestic violence advisors, its own investigative unit, and its purported commitment to coming down hard on any and all players who commit domestic violence, the NFL found "insufficient information to corroborate prior allegations."
As a result, the league bypassed the automatic six-game suspension for first-time offenders of the domestic violence policy. The league lessened the punishment by 83 percent, forcing Brown to miss just one football game.
For his part, Brown said at the time that the incident was "just a moment" and that he just wanted to kick footballs. The league, and the Giants, were more than happy to let him do exactly that.
This is a complete and utter failure on every single level.
Start with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. When he got the job, he said the one issue for which he has zero tolerance is domestic violence. Yet when the Brown news broke, he said, "I do support Josh as a man, a father and a player." And when asked if he himself nosed in to the investigation to see if Brown might have been guilty as charged, the zero-tolerance coach boldly said, "I stay in my lane."
But McAdoo didn't even put on the most shameful performance in the Giants organization. That role belongs to owner John Mara, who at first ducked and dodged media requests but eventually spoke on the topic. He likely now wishes he hadn't.
"These are not easy decisions," Mara said in late August. "It is very easy to say, 'The guy has been accused, get rid of him, terminate him.' But when you are sitting at the top of an organization and you are responsible for a lot of people, you better make more informed decisions than that."
"One thing that you learn when you are dealing with these issues is that there is a big difference between allegations and convictions, or indictments, and it is very difficult, sometimes, to sort through all of that and make informed decisions. We attempted to make an informed decision here. We will live with the results of that decision and we move forward. A lot of times there is a tendency to try to make these cases black and white. They are very rarely black and white; you very rarely have a Ray Rice video. There are allegations made, you try to sort through the facts and you try to make an informed decision. That is what we did here."
It's not difficult to read between the lines and see the official statement from the owner of New York's football team: We are aware of the allegations, but we don't believe them. So we brought back our kicker and gave him $4 million.
And people still wonder why victims are slow to come forward.
As is plain to see, the NFL and the New York Giants have invested more resources and fought harder to discredit the victims of domestic violence than they have to uphold their own empty policies. It is shameful.
Vacchiano added more to the report on Thursday morning, noting that NFL security was well aware of a drunken and angry Josh Brown pounding on his wife's hotel door while in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
Read that again: NFL security knew about this incident. Yet, apparently in the course of its investigation following Brown's domestic violence arrest, these records had been lost.
Even worse, here's what the NFL's solution to a belligerent player yelling through the door at his wife: "[The victim] also alleged that the NFL eventually put her and her kids up in a different hotel 'where Josh would not know where they were.'"
In principle, the league has taken a hard-line stance against domestic violence. In practice, the strategy was simply, "Move the family to a different hotel. The problem will go away on its own."
The timing of the Vacchiano story is a bit ironic, as it comes in Week 7, which should have been the week which Brown would be returning to the Giants. Had the NFL simply followed its own rules and forced Brown to sit out the six games as mandated by the league's policy, then this latest information would be equally awful yet slightly less explosive. The repulsiveness of Brown's actions wouldn't be lessened, but at least the NFL could say that it did all it could to punish a first-time offender.
Instead, the league held a cursory investigation, threw its hands up and said, "We're only give this guy 17 percent of our mandated punishment. Why? Because. That's why."
It is a complete and utter disgrace.
The hypocrisy crawls throughout the entire Giants locker room, really, as Eli Manning and Mark Herzlich were outspoken proponents of the "No More" campaign against domestic violence. Brown's ex-wife, meanwhile, claimed that multiple teammates of Brown were aware of his domestic violence offenses and did nothing.
At this point, it must be noted that as a country, we have major failings in the way domestic violence and any crimes against women are handled socially and in the criminal justice system. For evidence, look no further than the Los Angeles judge cracking Lakers-Knicks jokes just moments after Derrick Rose was found not liable in a civil trial for rape. You could also look to jurors from that trial posing for photos with Rose minutes later, too. Even if Rose is completely innocent of all charges, this type of behavior from the court system shines a light on major flaws and again only works to dissuade victims from even stepping forward in the first place.
It stands to reason, then, that it would be foolhardy for us to believe a sports league should set a better example than the one that is laid out by our society at large. But here's the problem with that: Roger Goodell has told us in no uncertain terms that the NFL must be better and that the NFL will be better.
In August 2014, Goodell said:
"Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances. That has been and remains our policy."
In August 2014, Goodell said:
"Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense."
But one needn't go back that far to find the NFL trumpeting its own involvement in domestic violence. Executive vice president Troy Vincent tweeted this just yesterday:
"Make domestic violence and sexual assault awareness a priority year-round."
Nothing but empty, hollow words from a league that has proven that it just does not care.
(Vincent also spoke in those "No More" PSAs, stating, "No more 'Why didn't she tell anyone?'" Brown's ex-wife certainly told a number of people. NFL security had witnessed the behavior. Yet the NFL did nothing.)
It also must be noted that Josh Brown is a kicker. Not that it should matter, but he's not even a great kicker. He kicked well last year but he's hit 83.9 percent of his kicks in his career, and he was all but out of the league as recently as 2012. As a player, he is replaceable, yet the league and his team have stood up to him in ways that look so, so terrible now after a football reporter managed to uncover admissions and confessions that the league and the team cared not to find.
It makes you wonder what the star players can get away with. If the league turns a blind eye and bypasses its entire domestic violence penalty for this kicker, what is it willing to overlook on charges against a star quarterback or receiver?
And what does this embarrassment say for the impartiality of the commissioner, who in this instance appears to have been doing whatever was necessary to help out a solid ally in Mara? How does this news play for the other 31 NFL franchises, who endured seeing their commissioner cover up for another owner in Steve Bisciotti just two years ago? How much more humiliation can these owners wear for Goodell?
The most damning thing of all for the league came in a simple statement from the victim in this case. According to documents obtained by Vacchiano, she told the detective of the King's County sheriff's department that she had no desire to speak to NFL investigators, because the NFL "would only be looking to bury this whole incident and protect Josh."
She was proven to be exactly right.
The problem, really, comes down to this: The NFL could have simply applied the mandatory six-game ban on Brown -- heck, the league could have instituted a lifetime ban and asked for Brown to be deported -- and the league would not have lost one viewer. Now, the NFL's repulsive response to allegations of years of abuse by a player stands to cost the league even more followers and even more fans, all because the NFL simply could not follow its own rules.
It's a situation where nobody involved escapes without shame.
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