EAST RUTHERFORD – The Giants had no choice but to do what they finally did Tuesday afternoon, cutting ties with kicker Josh Brown after continuing revelations about Brown’s history of domestic violence against his ex-wife. There was no other way for the franchise to begin correcting the missteps of its own past, and not by being on the right side of public opinion, but being on the right side of one of our most disturbing, endemic societal scourges.
The Giants backed themselves into that corner but good, failing to understand the full scope of Brown’s behavior, relying on the NFL to conduct a thorough investigation, trusting the league’s strengthened personal conduct policy would mete out appropriate punishment, and ultimately, choosing to re-sign Brown to a new two-year contract. When case documents released last week by the Sheriff’s department that investigated Brown exposed all of those actions as woefully inadequate, including as they did written admissions by Josh of his history of abuse and descriptions by his then-wife Molly of many altercations, the race to redemption was on.
So now the dust has settled, at least in NFL terms. Brown is out of a job, and the Giants are out of excuses.
“We believed we did the right thing at every juncture in our relationship with Josh,” co-owner and president John Mara said in a statement released by the team. “Our beliefs, our judgments and our decisions were misguided. We accept that responsibility.”
The question now is simple.
And I don’t mean for Brown, who isn’t likely ever to kick in the NFL again, and who still can’t seem to grasp the extent of his own transgressions. A statement attributed to Brown and released through ESPN on Tuesday included an apology, but not to his wife.
“I am sorry that my past has called into question the character or integrity of The New York Giants, Mr. Mara or any of those who have supported me along the way,” Brown wrote. “I have taken measures to get help so that I may be the voice of change, not a statistic. It is important to share that I never struck my wife, and never would. Abuse takes many forms, and is not a gray area.
“Through the past several years I have worked to identify and rectify my own behaviors. The road to rehabilitation is a journey and a constant modification of a way of life. My journey will continue forever as a person determined to leave a positive legacy and I embrace the opportunities to show and speak about what has helped me to be that man. In the interim, I am cooperating with the Giants and the NFL. Thank you to everyone that has supported me, I will not let you down.”
Between Brown’s need to point out he never struck his wife, as if that somehow diminishes what can constitute an abusive relationship, and Mara’s admission in an interview on WFAN-660 radio last week that Brown had told him of at least the one abusive incident in his past (the one that led to the one-game suspension under the league’s conduct policy) but that Mara and the Giants didn’t realize the “extent” of it, we must realize what a dangerous point we are reaching here. There are no degrees of domestic violence, and if you’re uncertain of that point, go and read the first-person Sports Illustrated essay by Annie Apple. Apple, who happens to be the mother of Giants’ first-round draft pick Eli Apple, offers a brutal, brutally honest history of being trapped in an abusive relationship, one she mercifully escaped but that continues to reverberate in her life. When she heard Mara’s words, her personal nightmare was newly awoken.
That essay had to hit home with Mara, who long ago had his franchise establish a relationship with Westchester-based My Sisters’ Place in order to educate and understand domestic violence, who admitted himself he has to answer to his own four daughters and seven sisters.
So what do the Giants do now to move this conversation forward in a more productive manner? What does the NFL do to give a fed-up, understandably cynical public is has learned anything in this ongoing search for accountability and believability in fighting domestic violence, a public that expects this little more than for this ugly chapter to disappear into the haze of a few more Roger Goodell swipes at our intelligence and inability to grasp his machinations? How do we advance a conversation that is so far stuck in outrage and move it into action?
And is that even possible through the channels of professional sports, when if there was anything the paperwork from the Brown case showed us is how difficult it is our for our legal system to navigate? There are no easy answers, but if we keep the discussion going, perhaps there are some to be found.
Mara continued his statement by showing support for the 37-year-old player he just cut saying, “We hope that Josh will continue to dedicate himself to rehabilitation, and to becoming a better person and father. We will continue to support him in his efforts to continue counseling, and we hope that Josh and his family can find peace and a positive resolution.”
Brown could start by striking a less defiant tone than in previous public conversations on the matter, by understanding his characterization of his suspension as being for but one “moment” in his life was wrong, for realizing his vehement disagreement with even that one-game ban was wrong, for accepting his insistence he wouldn’t change or re-do anything as he did after converting a game-winning kick in his first game back from suspension was wrong too.
This work must continue. Beyond the outrage, past the excuses, and into action. We have to keep the conversation going.
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