greghardyESPN has boxed itself into a strange corner this week, which is what it deserves for giving Greg Hardy a massive platform from which to speak when it’s unclear why he should get one.

Hardy is the NFL defensive lineman who was accused in 2014 of terrible crimes against his then-girlfriend, including bruising her by throwing her in a bathroom, threatening to kill her and throwing her onto a couch filled with assault weapons. He missed much of the 2014 season as a result, and was suspended for 10 games (reduced later to four) in 2015, when he left Carolina and played for Dallas.

The Cowboys decided they had enough of Hardy after one season and said earlier in this offseason that they wouldn’t be bringing him back. He’s now a free agent looking for a new contract. Few people cared about or were talking about Hardy until earlier this week when ESPN’s Adam Schefter sat down with him for an exclusive interview.

If the motivation on Hardy’s part was to paint himself in a sympathetic or redeemed light, he failed miserably. And if ESPN was hoping to generate positive buzz from an exclusive interview, it failed miserably as well.

Hardy told Schefter, “I’ve never put my hand on any woman.” When pressed on it a little, including a reminder of photographs that showed bruises on his ex-girlfriend, Hardy said, this: “Pictures are pictures, and they can be made to look like whatever they want to. I didn’t say I didn’t do anything wrong. That situation occurred and that situation was handled, but as a man you can’t avoid situations that aren’t your fault or are your fault.”

This is the very opposite of someone who has accepted blame for what looks to be a terrible incident. So that’s quite problematic. Also problematic was Schefter’s subsequent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, in which he said he thought Hardy was “a changed kind of guy.”

Hardy and ESPN are getting blasted on both fronts from a lot of angles — the most interesting being from ESPN employees.

The most frontal was ESPN’s Michelle Beadle, who said Tuesday on SportsNation: “I feel dirty in that this guy has no job right now, and for some reason we’ve decided as a network that we’re going to give him the stage for his redemption tour as he basically goes out and tries to find some employment.” On Twitter, she also strongly challenged Schefter’s assertion that Hardy has changed.

ESPN’s Mike and Mike program gave the situation a thorough dissection on Wednesday, making it quite clear that neither believed Hardy had really changed. Mike Golic, in particular, at least seemed to be taking a sideways swipe at Schefter in doing so. Said Golic (starting around the 14:30 mark): “If you want to have the opinion of listening to that interview and saying, ‘you know what, he sounds like a changed guy, he sounds like he’s going in the right direction, I think he’s sorry for what he did, maybe he didn’t really do what that police report said he did,’ and you want to believe him, you’re welcome to it. Welcome to it. My opinion has not changed one bit. Wouldn’t have signed him then. Wouldn’t sign him now.”

Normally when ESPN is able to turn one piece of content into multiple pieces of content across many platforms, it works out as an exponential victory for the Worldwide Leader. In this case, though, there is no synergy — just negative energy.

It’s also worth noting that Patrick, a longtime ESPN star who is no longer affiliated with the network, rarely is able to book guests from his former employer. I wonder if the hits Schefter is taking will reaffirm that policy?

Whatever the case, there are fans (and media members) who openly root for ESPN to fail. Even if you aren’t among them, the conclusion here is this: ESPN has failed at every turn of this story, and it is getting what it deserves in the fallout.

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