On Monday, clips from ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter’s interview (which aired in full Tuesday) with former Dallas Cowboys’ defensive end Greg Hardy made significant headlines thanks to Hardy saying “I’ve never put my hand on any women.” (Hardy was convicted of domestic violence against former girlfriend Nicole Holder by a judge in 2014, but the charges were dropped after he appealed to a jury and Holder didn’t appear at that appeal.) Hardy’s full interview Tuesday also made news, particularly for how he continued to call himself “an innocent man” and how he disputed the accuracy of the photos of Holder’s bruises that Deadspin published in November; Hardy told Schefter “Pictures are pictures, and they can be made to look like whatever they want to.” On Tuesday, Schefter’s own opinion made headlines, as he went on The Dan Patrick Show (on Audience/NBCSN/radio affiliates) and gave his impression of Hardy’s defense and Hardy in general:
“When I asked him specifically about that incident with this woman at that particular time, ‘What do you mean you didn’t do all right, Greg? What does that mean?’ And what he meant by that was he feels like he should not have put himself in that situation, around that woman, at that time of night, around alcohol, and that was his mistake, he should never have done that,” Schefter said. “But in his mind, he swears he never put a finger on this woman, and people can believe what they want.”
“Do you believe him?” Patrick asked.
Schefter pauses and then responds “It doesn’t matter what I believe, Dan. Right?”
Patrick responds “Well, it does. Having a conversation with you after the fact, you’re still objective with this.”
“I’ll say this, I’ll say this to you,” Schefter said. “I went in there with the idea that everybody had, that this guy’s a monster, okay? I went in there thinking that this is one of the scariest people in the NFL. And I came out of there with a very different feeling about him. I came out of there with a feeling that this is a guy who has managed to say the wrong things at the wrong times, has not always made the right decisions. But I found him to be a changed kind of guy, a guy that I think realizes he did make a mistake, could have handled things differently in regards to that incident. It’s such a tough thing. I’d like to talk to more people before I made a judgement. All I can go by is what he said. I’ll say this; he wasn’t wavering, he was adamant, ‘I never touched this woman.'”
Schefter’s going to get some blowback here, and some of it will be deserved, but there’s nothing wrong with the base premise of this exchange. Patrick’s right to ask Schefter for his opinion of Hardy (this is relatively common for radio interviews of journalists after big interviews), and that can be informative. While viewers were able to see Hardy’s responses and judge for themselves, Schefter’s opinion as the interviewer in the room can also be relevant, as sometimes there’s additional context or an atmosphere that isn’t conveyed by the cameras. Schefter isn’t wrong to provide opinions here, either, especially given the forum; a “This is what I think of Greg Hardy” written piece on ESPN.com would be an odd fit for him, but providing some impressions of Hardy’s behavior during the interview isn’t wrong.
However, where Schefter does deserve some criticism is for the language he uses. His comments (“incident,” “decisions”) downplay the severity of the accusations and charges against Hardy, and his use of “this woman” doesn’t feel appropriate; it seems like a way to downplay Holder’s story, as does his eventual conclusion of “All I can go by is what he said.” There’s no requirement for Schefter to consider only Hardy’s words rather than the photos and the legal verdict against Hardy. Now, of course Schefter can have his own opinion on Hardy’s innocence or guilt, and he doesn’t even go all the way towards “He’s innocent” here, but that opinion can also be criticized; in this case, it deserves significant criticism for giving more credence to Hardy’s statements than the rest of the evidence. His behavior during the interview deserves questions, too; while he asked Hardy about the accusations, he did so in a pretty soft way, and didn’t press Hardy on statements like “I am an innocent man” and “pictures are pictures.” Overall, Schefter’s actions during the Hardy interview and his comments to Patrick further the case that ESPN’s doing a “redemption tour” for Hardy, which ESPN’s own Michelle Beadle accused them of on SportsNation Tuesday.