SALT LAKE CITY — What if football fans could name their team, pick their jersey, or even choose the next play of the game? Leaving nearly every choice up to the fans is what the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles are all about.
However, their latest move is creating controversy nationwide.
Salt Lake’s indoor football team announced Wednesday morning that they were considering bringing former Carolina Panther, Dallas Cowboy and Pro Bowler Greg Hardy on to the roster.
The 28-year-old is used to making millions and traveling to games on team charters, but the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles only pay in the hundreds, and players travel to games on team buses. So, why the move for Hardy?
In 2014, Hardy was arrested on domestic violence allegations. His ex-girlfriend accused him of hitting her, and Hardy was later convicted. However, the case was later thrown out.
Months later, photos allegedly showing bruises on Hardy’s ex-girlfriends, back, jaw and feet surfaced on Deadspin.com. The photos were taken by police the night they were called to the residence.
In the aftermath, the Dallas Cowboys signed Hardy to a one-year deal but he was suspended by the NFL for the majority of the season for violating the league’s domestic violence guidelines.
After being released by the Cowboys, Hardy is now hoping another team will pick him up. But the phones have been quiet for over a season. That’s how the Screaming Eagles got involved.
“He himself approached our organization saying, ‘I’d like a second chance at football,’” said Screaming Eagles President Thom Carter. “We debated and discussed this internally and got to the point where we said, ‘why are we talking about this? Let’s let the fans decide.’”
Wednesday morning, the team posted an option to vote “yes” or “no” on adding Hardy to the roster. With polls closing at 11 p.m. Wednesday night, the vote was nearly split 50/50.
“I would hope that we would realize by now in Utah that domestic violence is a serious problem and not something we would want to invite into Utah,” said Jenn Oxborrow with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
Oxborrow points out that nearly half of Utah’s homicides revolve around domestic violence, and she fears bringing in an athlete with a past like Hardy’s will set a dangerous example.
If Hardy gets enough votes, he’ll join the Screaming Eagles for practice Thursday afternoon and will play for the team Friday night when they take on the Colorado Crush.