[Content warning: domestic violence]
The narrative of athletes getting in trouble for domestic violence, sadly, seems to be a broken record.
Almost equally troubling is the fact that this record was on mute for officials in many professional sports leagues. Or at least they had a fairly successful hear ‘no evil, see no evil’ policy going.
In fact, as WYV mentioned in a previous article on domestic violence in sports, in the past 25 years, not once has Major League Baseball issued a penalty or suspension at the commissioner level to a player arrested for domestic violence.
That changed this year with a new MLB domestic violence policy. New York Yankees pitcher Aldonis Chapman didn’t wait long to put it to use, getting a 30-game suspension for a fight in which he choked his girlfriend and fired a gun in his garage (he claimed they were “warning shots”).
On October 31 of last year, Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes had a fight with his wife where he reportedly threw her into the sliding glass door of a hotel room. He was charged, and the league suspended him. On March 30, these charges were dropped because his wife was not cooperating with authorities. But the MLB recently continued his suspension through May 31. This covers 52 games of the 162-game baseball season.
This is a great way for MBL to start cracking down on this issue. Or is it?
One problem is with the length of these suspensions. For Chapman, he is a relief pitcher, so he doesn’t play every day. His 30-game suspension probably held him out of a dozen appearances, in which he would pitch roughly one inning. In the end, this doesn’t have a significant impact on the team or his playing time.
That said, he still loses nearly 20 percent of his year’s salary.
Losing playing time isn’t a big deal for Reyes, a regular player, either. However, the length is curious. On May 13, the league upheld the suspension through May 31, meaning he would miss 52 games. It seems like they just decided to suspend him for the rest of the month rather than having specific criteria for the length of the suspension. What if they made the decision on June 2? Would he have been suspended through June 30?
The other issue here is how fans and league owners view the impact of these infractions. Chapman returned from his suspension to cheers from home fans. ESPN reporter Buster Olney is reporting that at least three teams are interested in trading for Reyes once his suspension is up (assuming the Rockies don’t want to keep him along with the $22 million he is due this year, as well as in 2017 and ’18).
I’m not saying people do not make mistakes and cannot be afforded second chances. However, these incidents are still fresh. Reyes has served time and gave a league-mandated $100,000 toward a charity focused on preventing and treating those who have experienced domestic violence. Is he “rehabilitated?” I have no idea. And, once more, neither do those teams looking to spend millions upon millions on him.
If teams and fans are going to ignore the issue, these suspensions will mean little in terms of prevention.