In the end, John Mara owned up to his mistake.
The Giants president and co-owner, who has a well-earned reputation for trying to do the right thing and running his franchise with integrity, acknowledged the series of missteps and wrong decisions that led to Tuesday’s day of reckoning for kicker Josh Brown.
In announcing Brown’s release, Mara fessed up about his role in getting this situation so dreadfully wrong. “We believed we did the right thing at every juncture in our relationship with Josh,” he said in a statement. “Our beliefs, our judgments and our decisions were misguided. We accept that responsibility.”
The admission followed last week’s stunning release of court documents in which Brown admitted to abusing his then-wife, Molly, long before his May 2015 arrest led to a one-game suspension,
Mara rightly is second-guessing himself and his organization for failing to grasp the implications of what it would mean to re-sign Brown to a two-year contract earlier this year, all the while knowing that he faced a potential suspension for last year’s arrest on domestic violence charges. Their decision was all the more startling in light of Brown’s altercation with Molly at the Pro Bowl in late January, when NFL security had to intervene during a late-night dispute.
The Giants took an unwise risk, because court documents stemming from Brown’s arrest eventually would leave no uncertainty about the years of abuse Brown inflicted on his wife. The team chose to believe that marriage counseling and therapy would have addressed his problems sufficiently. But in a league whose foundation was rocked two years ago by the scourge of domestic violence with Ray Rice’s punch to the jaw of his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, the Giants failed to adequately assess the situation.
The Giants have been pilloried, and they have no one to blame but themselves for believing Brown and not grasping the depth of his problem.
Brown stood before reporters in August, when his suspension was announced, and expressed anger that he had been disciplined at all. He called the incident for which he was arrested “just a moment,” knowing full well that his relationship had been abusive for years. Molly Brown told police there were more than 20 incidents of abuse, which the Giants were aware of from her interview with detectives after the arrest. Yet they chose to re-sign Brown anyway, and continue to experience the fallout from the shocking revelations in Brown’s journals and a “Contract for Change,” written in 2013 at the behest of a Seattle-based psychologist in which Brown admits he physically and psychologically abused his wife.
Brown had the temerity in a statement released Tuesday afternoon to say “it is important to share that I never struck my wife, and never would. Abuse takes many forms, and is not a gray area.”
No, it is not. So how could Brown parse the word “struck” as a defense for his behavior, when police documents show he shoved her head against a wall, pushed her into a mirror and lay on her with his full body weight, his forearm across the back of her neck and Molly’s face pushed into the carpet, restricting her breathing.
There is no sympathy here for a statement in which he apologizes to the Giants but not to the woman on whom he has inflicted so much pain. It is hopelessly indefensible, and yet another agonizing lesson for a league that has spent so much time and effort dealing with such an ugly problem.
Brown joins a list that includes Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald and Jonathan Dwyer — whose domestic abuse cases resulted in losing the privilege of playing in the NFL — in most cases permanently.
There is no way Brown deserves the right to play again, but that’s really not the most important issue here. The most important thing is that he follows through on his stated goal of being a force for change and “leave a positive legacy.”
He has a long way to go to convince anyone he’s capable of leaving that legacy.