(Reuters) - Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy had his 10-game suspension for domestic violence reduced to four games, the National Football League announced on Friday.
Arbitrator Harold Henderson said in a statement he believed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “acted within his authority and properly exercised his discretion” in finding that Hardy violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.
But, he said, a 10-game suspension “is simply too much ... when the ‘baseline’ for discipline in domestic violence or sexual assault cases was announced (by the NFL last year) as a six-game suspension.”
Hardy, a five-year NFL veteran, was found guilty by a district court judge in July 2014 of assaulting his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder, but, under North Carolina law, appealed the verdict and was then allowed to have a jury trial.
The domestic violence charges were dropped in February, however, when Holder could not be found to testify.
Hardy, 26, was suspended for 10 games by Goodell in April and Henderson, who on Wednesday wrote that Hardy’s “egregious conduct ... is indefensible in the NFL,” heard his appeal in May.
Several of the NFL’s top players, including Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, were charged with domestic violence in 2014, prompting the league to overhaul its personal conduct policy.
Sharply criticized for being too lenient on domestic violence and sexual assault, Goodell made the penalties for such crimes much harsher than in the past.
The new sanctions announced last August included a six-game suspension for a first-time domestic violence offense and a lifetime ban for a second.
Hardy, who played only one game for Carolina before being suspended last season, was accused of assaulting Holder in May 2014, sending her to the hospital emergency room.
When the Panthers decided not to bring Hardy back, the Cowboys signed the 2013 Pro Bowl defensive end.
“We are looking forward to the start of the season and having Greg be a part of the team,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Eric Beech