Sullivan: Giants must get it right this time with Josh Brown
Roger Goodell was standing inside a Manhattan conference room when he uttered the four words few believed we’d ever hear from the NFL’s haughty commissioner.
“I got it wrong,” Goodell said that September 2014 afternoon, the day he promised his league would get better at disciplining domestic violence, beginning with a new personal conduct policy that opened at a six-game suspension and ended at expulsion from the league.
Now, more than two years later, with exactly zero players hit with that codified six-game ban, the time has come for the Giants to issue the same mea culpa Goodell once did, to admit they were wrong in standing by kicker Josh Brown.
This is their second chance to get it right.
The full release of documents by the King County (Wash.) sheriff’s department that investigated Brown, which includes copies of journal entries attributed to Brown’s own hand, in Brown’s words, has to change this conversation forever. The assertion by Brown that the cause of his one-game suspension this season was nothing more than a “moment” in what was a tumultuous relationship with his then-wife Molly, the decision by the Giants to accept Brown’s explanation of that moment and re-sign the veteran kicker to a new contract, well, they fall apart in stunning fashion now.
“I have abused my wife,” Brown wrote, having circled that phrase in an entry that also included the line, “I have physically, mentally, emotionally and verbally been a repulsive man.”
The photocopied pages of journal entries, along with copies of emails among the Browns and other friends are difficult to read, exposing Brown as a deeply troubled man, one who described himself as a god and his wife his slave, who admitted his abuse of women since the age of 7.
Frankly, the entries probably don’t even belong in the public domain, created as they were in the course of medical and psychological counseling. But here they are, a reality for which Brown can only hold himself responsible, for committing the behaviors that involved law enforcement. And truth be told, Brown’s only hope of fulfilling the growth and ‘moving on’ mentality he uttered in the few public conversations he’s had about his suspension is to admit his past and seek such help.
But what the full extent of the police reports really expose is the victimization of Molly Brown, first by her husband, and then, by her mistrust of an NFL system she never believed would protect her.
Back when Goodell promised change, remember, this is what he said:
“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter. And I’m sorry for that. I got it wrong on a number of levels from the process that led to the decision that I reached. But now I will get it right and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that. … The same mistakes can never be repeated. We will do whatever it is necessary to ensure that we are thorough in our review process and that our conclusions are reliable. We will get our house in order first.”
But here in real life, where Molly Brown was trapped in an abusive relationship, this is what she believed, according to the investigative statement:
“Molly also feared that once the New York Giants Football team management found out about Josh’s arrest, he would be let go from the team, or the exact opposite would happen, and the team would rally around Josh and look to vilify her in the media. Molly believed the team would look for ways to sweep this whole thing under the rug, and say that she was making everything up. … Molly was very upfront that in her experience, the NFL publically says that they have a no tolerance policy on domestic violence, but the reality is that they do more crisis management and look to cover things up.”
One of the most disturbing incidents described by Molly Brown in the documents came at the most recent NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii, when she said she and her children accompanied Josh’s appearance there, at his expense. When he allegedly arrived drunk and pounding on her hotel door late at night, she had to involve NFL security to have him removed and subsequently use their assistance to move herself and the kids to another hotel.
But back when Giants owner John Mara rationalized his decision to stick by Brown, he included an assertion that Brown “has been a good citizen since he has been here.”
Mara must tell us now whether he knew of that incident, and overall, of the information included in these journals. If he did, the decision to stand by Brown is even more troubling than it first appeared. If he didn’t, he must revisit the decision and change it.
“When we made the decision to re-sign Josh back in (2016), we were certainly aware of the arrest. We were also aware of the allegations associated with that arrest and the fact that the charges were dropped within a couple of days after the arrest. Based on the facts and circumstances that we were aware of at that time, we were comfortable with our decision to re-sign him. Nothing has happened in the meantime to make us question that decision,” Mara said in the days after the suspension was announced.
“One thing that you learn when you are dealing with these issues is that there is a big difference between allegations and convictions, or indictments, and it is very difficult, sometimes, to sort through all of that and make informed decisions,” he continued. “We attempted to make an informed decision here, we will live with the results of that decision and we move forward. A lot of times there is a tendency to try to make these cases black and white. They are very rarely black and white; you very rarely have a Ray Rice video. There are allegations made, you try to sort through the facts and you try to make an informed decision. That is what we did here. “
There was no video. But there are words. And they are ugly, sad, damaging, violent and disturbing. They are more than enough to justify cutting Brown from the team.
The Giants can no longer let this man represent their franchise, not if they want us to believe they care about what that image says to survivors of domestic abuse.