Critics question how seriously league takes domestic violence claims
Giants kicker Josh Brown cannot play, but will still be paid during investigation
When New York Giants kicker Josh Brown’s one-game suspension for an alleged domestic violence incident was announced two months ago, it drew sharp criticism.
And after police in Washington state released documents Thursday in which Brown purportedly admitted to abusing his wife in years past, people are even more upset with the National Football League.
After all, this is a league that gave a player a four-game suspension for what he knew about a scheme to deflate game balls and where drug offenders sit out at least four games for a positive drug test.
Many question how, then, does Brown’s alleged actions merit only a one-game ban? Why wasn’t it six games, like the league’s personal conduct policy covering domestic violence calls for?
“There is a disconnect here and it leaves people wondering exactly how sincere the NFL is about domestic violence,” USA Today columnist Nancy Armour told HLN’s Erica Hill.
Indianapolis Colts cornerback Darius Butler tweeted: “Josh Brown suspended ONE GAME!!! So much for our strict stance against DV. Anyone associated with the NFL should be embarrassed right now!!!”
Sam Ponder, a football reporter for ESPN, tweeted: “I don’t speak 4 all women, but I’d much rather support a league w/zero tolerance for DV than 1 that sells me pink gear & sparkly clothes.”
The NFL investigation began after a May 2015 incident in which Josh Brown has not been charged. Molly Brown told police her husband grabbed her by the wrist during an argument. An officer who noted he saw a bruise on her wrist said Josh Brown told him he had grabbed her accidentally.
What the league has said
It is unclear what Josh Brown told NFL investigators, but Giants owner John Mara on Thursday told WFAN in New York that Brown had admitted to team officials that he had abused his wife in the past. Mara said the information that was released this week from the King County sheriff in Washington was “disturbing.”
CNN reached out to Brown’s agent and sent an email to Brown but didn’t get a response.
Brown, 37, remains a member of the New York Giants, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell placed him Friday on the exempt list. Brown still gets paid, but cannot take part in team activities, including games.
The league explained its rationale behind its decision to suspend the kicker earlier this season. In a statement, the NFL said its investigation, which lasted 10 months, was hindered because Molly Brown, the kicker’s estranged wife, refused to talk to league investigators and authorities in Washington state didn’t give them any information during an open investigation.
The NFL said in August that Josh Brown not being charged factored into the brief suspension.
Now the league says, given the release of Brown’s statements, it will look at other possible abuse allegations.
Others face longer suspensions
Brown’s suspension was widely criticized, given the NFL’s promise it would take a tougher stance against domestic violence after former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice initially was banned in 2014 for two games for punching his now-wife. After TMZ obtained video of the incident, public scrutiny of the NFL’s policies was intense.
Since then, the league has suspended other players for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, including Greg Hardy, who was banned in four games in 2015 in connection with an incident a year earlier with an ex-girlfriend. Three players were suspended this season for personal conduct issues – free agent tight end Andrew Quarless (two games, gun charge), Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (one game, speeding arrest), former Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo (two games, animal cruelty allegations).
And critics point to NFL superstar Tom Brady’s four-game benching for Deflategate, where the NFL maintains the quarterback knew of equipment managers tampering with footballs, as evidence of unequal punishments. Brady and the Patriots said he didn’t and the NFL didn’t have the evidence to back up its allegations.
Every other suspension (except one) this season for four games or longer is for illegal or performance-enhancing drugs.
The league’s personal conduct policy was amended in December 2014. It says personnel whose violations involve domestic violence will be subject to a “baseline suspension without pay of six games, with consideration given to any aggravating or mitigating factors.”
Brown: ‘I have been a horrible husband’
In the documents, provided by the King County Sheriff’s Office, an investigator writes that Molly Brown gave him a list Josh Brown wrote in March 2013. In it Brown purportedly writes: “I have physically, verbally and emotionally abused my wife Molly” and “I have been a horrible husband and stepfather.”
The document was titled “Contract for Change,” and the investigator writes it was done as part of Josh Brown’s counseling.
Brown wrote in journals and emails to friends that he has abused his wife, the documents say.
In May 2015, on the night Josh Brown was arrested for fourth-degree assault, Molly Brown told police her husband had been physically violent toward her more than 20 times over the course of a few years.
During the followup investigation, she also told a detective that her estranged husband invited her and her children to the Pro Bowl in January. Molly Brown said that one night the kicker came to her room and began pounding on the door. She called security and said the NFL put her and the children in a new room.
Armour, the USA Today columnist, told HLN that the NFL had enough information to warrant a longer suspension.
“They had information. You kind of have to ask if they didn’t want to know more when they imposed the one-game suspension,” she said. CNN left a voice mail Thursday at a phone number listed for Molly Brown.
Josh Brown had one prior arrest, according to the sheriff’s office investigation. When he was a junior at the University of Nebraska, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault after an incident with a man and Brown’s ex-girlfriend, the Lincoln Journal Star reported at the time.
Police said the investigation was recently closed and the detective leading the case wrote in a report that it is unclear whether Molly Brown would want to “assist in going forward” with criminal charges.
Before the NFL season, Josh Brown signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Giants, according to spotrac.com, which tracks news of sports deals.
CNN’s Jason Hanna, Dave Alsup, Quand Thomas and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.