After the bungling of the Ray Rice situation, the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell promised to get tough on domestic violence. Money was pledged to advocacy groups and the league brought on a “vice president of social responsibility,” Anna Isaacson, who was charged with navigating such issues.
Part of that new path was of course to make it look like the league cared: the “No More” commercials that started airing during games, and the institution of a new rule – a first offense would draw a six-game minimum suspension, without pay, “for violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, other forms of family violence, or sexual assault, with consideration given to possible mitigating or aggravating circumstances.”
That last part – “possible mitigating or aggravating circumstances” – smells like a loophole, the same kind of “well maybe she deserved it” type of excuse-making we’ve heard for decades as a defense for men who can’t keep it together and keep their hands off women and children when they get angry.
And the New York Giants’ Josh Brown might be benefitting from said loophole. And the NFL and Giants are proving again that both the league and most of its teams are all talk when it comes to violence against women and children at the hands of their players.
Earlier this week, news came that Brown had been suspended for one game for violating the personal conduct policy. NJ.com reported that Brown had been arrested in May 2015 for misdemeanor domestic violence in Washington state after an incident with his then-wife, which is what triggered the suspension. Brown was booked and released on $2,000 bond, but a few days later the state declined to file charges.
Turns out, there’s more to the story. Much more.
The New York Daily News’ Seth Walder did some digging into Brown’s history, and found out that the kicker is an alleged serial abuser.
On the day Brown was arrested, May 22, 2015, Molly Brown told police that he had been physically violent with her over 20 times – and that the violence began while she was pregnant with their daughter in 2009.
While she was pregnant.
The May 22 incident was the second time in as many days Molly Brown called 911, scared by Josh’s behavior toward her and her 16-year old son, who was Josh’s stepson. The second time, according to the police report, was because Josh put his hands on Molly, grabbing her by the wrist during an argument; police saw redness and a small cut that could have been caused by a fingernail, the police report said.
The Daily News obtained those 911 recordings (they are posted with the story), as well as the transcript of an interview Molly Brown did with a detective, an advocate and a court official on May 28.
In it, Molly describes numerous instances of violence. The first, she said, was when she was between four and six months pregnant; the two were arguing over a box of mail and “I remember [him] grabbing my shoulders and just pushing me into the door.”
In April of 2014, Molly told the interviewers, Josh pushed her into a large mirror in their bedroom and then threw her on the floor and jumped on top of her, holding her face down into the carpet. That incident left her with arm and elbow pain for several months afterward. A year later, on a trip to Hawaii, she alleged, Josh balled up his fist like he was going to punch Molly and said, “I want to knock you out so bad.”
Among other incidents Molly Brown described, according to the transcript: a February 2015 argument Josh had with Molly’s son that saw Josh kick in a bathroom door, the power taking the hinges off the door and cracking the door jamb; as the door flew open, it hit the teenager in the arm.
Molly was granted a protection order against Josh in 2013, but it was later dropped when the two made progress in counseling. She also recalled Josh saying he was going to kill her four or five times, threats she didn’t take seriously at first, though over time she did. Josh at one point began attending “intensive therapy counseling” for his abusive behavior, Molly said.
According to a report from ESPN on Friday, Molly called police in nearly every city and state the pair lived in together: Washington, St. Louis and Hoboken, N.J. Josh Brown has played for the Seahawks, Rams, Bengals and Giants.
So let’s circle back. The NFL said a first offense warrants a six-game suspension, but Brown got only one. Why?
The NFL released a statement on Friday afternoon, saying Brown’s arrest triggered an investigation, and during the investigation, the league discovered that statement Molly Brown gave to the detective, victim advocate and court official.
“However, despite multiple attempts to speak with her about this incident and her previous statements, she declined to speak with us,” the statement says. “We understand that there are many reasons that might have affected her decision not to speak with us, but we were limited in our ability to investigate these allegations.
“Over the course of the 10-month investigation, we also made numerous requests — as late as this spring — to local law enforcement officers for information on the case and previous allegations. They declined those requests for information.
“As a result of these factors, our investigators had insufficient information to corroborate prior allegations. In addition, no criminal charges were brought forward regarding the incident in question or prior allegations. The NFL therefore made a decision based on the evidentiary findings around this one incident as provided to us by the District Attorney.”
Why should Molly Brown have to do an interview with the NFL? There is documented evidence that there were multiple violent situations between the Browns, who are divorced. Unless she’s been charged with filing false police reports — and it does not appear that she has— why are those police incident reports insufficient?
Is that why the NFL went easy on Josh Brown, because Molly Brown wouldn’t cooperate? Last I checked, and as much as Goodell seems to think otherwise, the league isn’t a law enforcement agency. While I suppose it’s admirable that the league has started its own investigative arm, that doesn’t mean it’s the end-all, be-all. And you certainly shouldn’t go against your own rule – your stated six-games-for-the-first-offense rule – because the victim won’t cooperate with you.
Keep in mind too: the league’s policy says a player could face harsher discipline if children are involved and/or a victim is pregnant. Molly Brown faced both of those situations.
First-year Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, shortly after being hired, said he’d have zero tolerance for domestic abuse. But here we are, seven-plus months into McAdoo’s tenure, and on Thursday he was firmly standing by Josh Brown “as a man, a father, and a player.”
In McAdoo’s world, zero tolerance is apparently for the 53rd guy on the roster or a practice squadder, not Pro Bowl kickers.
For his part, Brown dismissed the May 2015 incident as “a moment.”
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 18, 2016
Don’t fall for it. The NFL has shown once again that it does not care.