The Cowboys signed Hardy as a free agent last month to a one-year deal worth $13.1 million, despite the fact the former Carolina Panthers standout was being investigated for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Last July, a judge in North Carolina found Hardy guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, but that verdict was set aside when Hardy requested a jury trial.
In February, all charges were dropped because Holder declined to cooperate with the district attorney’s office in Mecklenburg after receiving a financial settlement from Hardy.
The NFL launched a two-month investigation of the situation, and, although Holder did not participate, the league ruled that “there was sufficient credible evidence that Hardy engaged in conduct that violated NFL policies in multiple respects and with aggravating circumstances.”
Hardy has three days to file an appeal of the suspension.
The league’s investigation was led by Lisa Friel, former head of the sex crimes prosecution unit in the New York County district attorney’s office, an expert brought onboard last fall in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal. The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell were buffeted by heavy criticism for the handling of the Rice incident, with the former Baltimore Ravens star initially receiving only a two-game suspension for knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in a casino elevator.
The NFL had multiple meetings with Hardy and his legal representatives in recent weeks, but the league concluded that Hardy failed to provide complete and accurate information to league investigators and staff.
The league determined that Hardy violated the personal conduct policy by using physical force against Holder in at least four instances, including force that caused her to land in a bathtub, on a futon that was covered by at least four semi-automatic rifles, placing his hands around her neck and applying enough pressure to leave marks, and shoving her against a wall in his apartment.
“The net effect of these acts was that Ms. Holder was severely traumatized and sustained a range of injuries, including bruises and scratches on her neck, shoulders, upper chest, back, arms and feet,” Goodell wrote in a letter delivered Wednesday to Hardy. “The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.”
Goodell directed Hardy to obtain a clinical evaluation to be conducted by a qualified professional of his choosing. Should counseling or treatment be recommended, Hardy will be expected to comply and allow the league to monitor his progress and follow-up care.
Hardy’s suspension will begin Sept. 5, the day of final roster cutdowns. He may participate in all preseason activities, including exhibition games. He will be eligible for reinstatement after the Cowboys’ 10th game -- meaning he will first be eligible to return for the Thanksgiving Day game against Carolina, his old team.