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NFL's new dilemma: What happens now with Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson?

Under mounting public pressure, the Carolina Panthers on Sunday deactivated Greg Hardy, who has been convicted of domestic violence. Adrian Peterson had already been deactivated after being arrested for reckless or negligent injury to a child.

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    Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy sits on the bench during the second half of an NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta last December.
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The Ray Rice scandal has finally affected Greg Hardy.

Both football players were arrested for domestic violence earlier this year. Initially, Rice was given a two-game suspension; Hardy who was later convicted, was not suspended. But now that a video of Rice knocking out his wife has become public, Rice has been suspended indefinitely by the National Football League and fired by the Ravens.

Yet Hardy, a Carolina Panthers all-pro linebacker who was convicted in July on two counts of assault on a female and communicating threats, has faced no league suspension as he appeals that conviction. Last week, he played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and recorded a sack.

Sunday morning, the Panthers deactivated Hardy, meaning he can't play against the Detroit Lions.

This comes after the Minnesota Vikings deactivated star running back Adrian Peterson in connection with his arrest on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. He is accused of disciplining his 4-year-old son by hitting him with a switch – a wooden rod or tree branch – causing cuts and bruises.

These incidents raise deeply troubling questions for the NFL. The tenor of the game and the behavior of some of its athletes appear to be out of step with an America increasingly intolerant of previously accepted forms of violence. The country's societal values appear to shifting out from under the NFL and its warrior culture.

Yet these incidents also raise a far more immediate question for the NFL. What does it do next week?

Rice will be out of football for the foreseeable future, though Commissioner Roger Goodell could not rule out a return at some point. But what about Peterson and Hardy?

Goodell has tried to address the perception that the NFL has been toothless on issues of domestic violence by introducing a new policy: six-game suspension for the first offense, a lifetime ban for the second.

But Hardy has not been suspended (though he was convicted before the new policy came into force). Neither has the San Francisco 49ers' Ray McDonald, who was arrested after the new policy came into effect and is still playing. (The 49ers have not deactivated him.) Before Sunday, the Panthers had said they were waiting for Hardy's appeal. The 49ers say McDonald has not yet been convicted.

And what about Peterson? He was arrested for a crime that is not technically "domestic violence."

Do the Vikings re-activate him next week? How about the Panthers and Hardy? Why deactivate Peterson but not McDonald?

In April, National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life for racially charged comments made in private. He recognized that the such allegations could be disastrous for a league in which the majority of some teams' fans are minorities.

The NFL's lack of clarity and conviction in cases of off-the-field violence this week suggest it does not yet feel that same urgency.

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