As he was ending his brief acceptance speech Wednesday night, Jerry Richardson invoked the issue that people who care about the NFL and people who don't are talking about.
He invoked domestic violence, and then he began to cry.
Richardson was on stage at McGlohon Theater to accept the Echo Foundaton Award against Indifference.
Richardson was funny at first, saying that the brain power portion of the program had ended. Among those that preceeded him were two doctors who had won a Nobel Prize in chemistry.
The jokes also had ended. Richardson, a proponent of the NFL as well as the owner of the Carolina Panthers, said that when "it comes to domestic violence my stance is not one of indifference."
I assure you the tears were real. Knowing Richardson, he wishes he could have them back. On stage, in a group, in front of a microphone, he prefers to be stoic, or at least in control.
Richardson can't have them back. He also undo te ramifications of what he said.
People will now ask: If you care so deeply about domestic violence, why don't you do something?
On Monday TMZ released footage of Ray Rice, the former Baltimore running back, punching his his then fiancee in an elevator and knocking her to the floor. Rice was run out of the NFL the same day by his team and the league.
With Rice gone, attention has shifted to Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy. One of Carolina's most talented players, Hardy was convicted in July of domestic violence and communicating threats. He is appealing.
I contend Hardy is entitled to the same legal rights the rest of us are. That is, when he appealed the process began anew. And if I'm Richardson and the Panthers, I don't suspend, release or penalize Hardy until his second trial -- a jury trial -- is held.
I wrote that in Tuesday's paper, and the majority of the readers I heard from disagree. They think Hardy should be suspended, or released, now.
At training camp in Spartanburg, I was in a parking lot when I saw a golf cart go past with a man in a suit sitting inside. I recogized the man and walked over and saw Richardson, who was in camp to attend the retirement ceremony of guard Travelle Wharton.
We talked no more than five minutes. A few minutes into the conversation I asked about Hardy.
Before I finished the question Richardson said, "You don't have to ask. You know how I feel."
After Wednesday night, everybody should.
And they're justified asking what happens next.