The vote was very close, but the Indoor Football League fans in Utah have spoken — and controversial former NFL player Greg Hardy won’t be joining the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles.
Hardy is a one-time Pro Bowl defensive end who seems to be a castoff as far as the NFL is concerned.
At 28, Hardy is looking to make a football comeback. And the Screaming Eagles were willing to give him another chance.
But there was a big “if” involved.
“After hours of deliberation and debate, Screaming Eagles ownership, management, and coaches are in unanimous agreement that we will support Greg joining the team under one condition – that our fans vote to allow him,” the team’s ownership group said in a statement posted the organization’s website on Wednesday.
According to another statement on the team’s site on Thursday, 50.1% of the voters were against Hardy joining the team.
“The fans have spoken; Hardy will not be offered a contract,” the team said in a statement Thursday morning.
Hardy spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, but missed all but one game in 2014 while on the commissioner’s exempt list after being arrested on domestic violence charges for allegedly assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
While the charges were eventually dropped after the woman failed to appear at his trial, Hardy was suspended by the league for the first four games of the 2015 season. Only then was he able to take the field for the Dallas Cowboys, whom he had joined as a free agent that off-season.
After seemingly providing more distractions off the field than big plays on it, Hardy was released by the Cowboys after that season and didn’t catch on with another team. Last fall he was arrested on a cocaine possession charge but avoided jail time by reaching a plea deal in March.
Also last fall, Hardy announced his commitment to a new career in MMA fighting. But recently, Screaming Eagles ownership said in its statement, the player “expressed a strong desire to join the Screaming Eagles as a way for him to showcase his football skills and prove worthy of another chance.”
But he does come with a lot of baggage. That’s one reason why the ultimate decision is being left up to a fan poll. Another is that the team allows fans to make many of its decisions that way, including what plays should be called on offense.
"On the field, Greg would be a no-questions-asked signee for just about any coach in any league," Coach Matthew Sauk said in the team’s statement. "Greg is human and made some mistakes in his life and is paying for those mistakes. We want the fans to make the call."
8:24 a.m.: This post was updated with a statement from the team.
March 30, 8:05 a.m.: This post was updated with the results of the poll.
This article was originally posted March 29 at 10 a.m.