Seemingly in the final act of a long career, former NFL kicker Josh Brown peaked as a top talent in the league after joining the New York Giants in 2013. Big Blue had seemingly stumbled upon a diamond in the rough, who was almost perfect on field goals and extra-point attempts from any range. He signed a whopping two-year, $4 million extension with the G-Men, a testament to the veteran’s tremendous on-field ability.
Prior to his suspension, Brown had been in his 14th season competing in the NFL, the four most recent with the New York Giants. Before joining Big Blue, Brown played for the Cincinnati Bengals, the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams.
However, the tide quickly turned on Brown who is now out of the league. Brown faces strong accusations of domestic abuse toward his ex-wife, Molly Brown, which led to his dismissal from the New York Giants. In August 2016, the NFL handed Brown a one-game suspension for violating league conduct policy. Brown firmly maintained his innocence, although he opted against an appeal to his suspension. Soon after, the plot unraveled for Brown.
A detailed police report accompanied Brown’s first arrest for domestic violence in May 2015 that specified that he bruised Molly’s wrists in a tight grip, stemming from a fight between the two. Prosecutors charged Josh Brown, 37 years old, with fourth-degree domestic violence. CBS Sports reported that, “After the suspension, Brown appeared in five regular-season games but landed on the commissioner’s exempt list in October after the NFL obtained new evidence released by law enforcement.”
The incident was put under investigation by the sheriff’s department, to whom Molly released Brown’s journal entries that detailed stories of physical and emotional abuse toward his then-wife. The department released the entries to the public, after which the Giants decided to cut ties with Brown.
Speaking for the first time in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Brown indicated that the journal entries should have been kept private and stressed that he had been going to therapy sessions to address the issues for some time. The former Giants’ player expected the activity of writing in a journal to act as a coping mechanism for him to resolve issues in a nonviolent way. He also stressed that he put in effort to better himself as an individual by attending sessions and participating in support groups and that the journals were evidence of his effort.
Still, Brown claimed in the interview that he was honest with his team and that the allegations against him are very exaggerated; he strictly maintained that their arguments never resulted in physical abuse. He cited the police report in particular, referencing and refuting the allegation that he had grabbed and bruised Molly’s wrists. Brown specified that he held Molly down but emphasized that he had never hit or choked her. Molly detailed over 20 instances of physical abuse, sometimes during her pregnancy—a claim that Josh wholeheartedly refused.
Earlier in 2016, Brown admitted on record that he had abused Molly both verbally and physically. When one interviewer asked for clarification, Brown reneged, explaining that he became violent and got involved in physical altercations, but never struck his ex-wife.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell encouraged the investigation against Brown to continue, pointing to the league’s policy on domestic violence. Goodell has often come under scrutiny for his weak policy on domestic violence, as reports from years past showed concerning statistics of domestic violence incidents at an all-time high among NFL players.
The case against Brown resulted in a one-game suspension in 2016, despite policy which states that all first-time offenders will be handed a six-game suspension. Lengthier penalties are allotted to those who practice domestic violence in front of a young child, for instance.
Although he has readily admitted that his actions were off-course and wrong, Brown recently expressed interest in rejoining the NFL in the distant future. However, Goodell is interested in maintaining an open investigation on the domestic violence case in accordance with the issued policy. Brown has the cards stacked against him, as he joins a lengthy list of promising NFL stars who have been blacklisted following cases of domestic violence, including Ray Rice and Johnny Manziel. Guilty or innocent, any team that chooses to sign Brown in the future is subjecting itself to scrutiny. In recent years, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys received heavy backlash for signing defensive tackle Greg Hardy, who admitted to acts of domestic violence.
The topic of domestic violence is just one of many factors that have affected the NFL’s public image as of late. The league has been mired with bad publicity relating to concussion policy and other safety concerns.
Perhaps the biggest asterisk telling of the NFL’s troubled future is the consistently declining viewership of its televised events. Viewer ratings on prime-time games have declined as the league struggles to adapt to the ever-changing technological advances.