Are Pro-Sports Leagues Properly Handling Domestic Violence Cases Against Their Players?

By EMILY RUBINO

Professional sports teams seem to take over many individuals’ lives, as the competition, excitement of the game, and likable players are often behind the attraction to these sporting events.

 

However, what seems to hide behind the spotlight of Sunday Night Football and summer baseball games is how these professional teams, and the league in general, handle issues involving their distinguished athletes, especially accusations of domestic violence and assault against them.

 

Recently, in October of 2016, Josh Brown of the New York Giants was put on the “commissioner’s exempt list” as investigators sorted through new documents involving an incident between Brown and his then-wife, Molly, resulting in a one-game suspension, Morgan Winsor and Julia Jacobo of ABC News report.

 

The player’s suspension included access to individual workouts, rehab and therapy – all with the supervision and permission of the Giants. According to Winsor and Jacobo, the team reported that Brown was working out his issues through counselling, and that they were “supportive of his efforts.”

 

Juliet Macur, of the New York Times, describes that Brown’s ex-wife reported over two dozen accounts of assault against her, “including at least once, Molly Brown said, when she was pregnant.”

 

Brown was dropped from the Giants after he admitted to the domestic violence allegation, stating “I have physically, verbally and emotionally abused my wife Molly…I have been a horrible husband and stepfather,” Almasy, journalist for CNN, captures.

 

According to police reports, Molly Brown didn’t speak to NFL investigators during the 10-month investigation of her allegations due to concerns that the Giants “would abruptly cut him and that…the team would try to brush it all under the rug and to create the impression that she was making things up,” Mike Florio, NBC Sports, reveals,

 

According to Steve Almasy, the baseline suspension for domestic violence claims in the NFL is six games, with consideration for mitigating circumstances. This fact raises the question of what the NFL’s role is regarding discipline for players with domestic assault convictions and allegations.

 

In 2015, Tyreek Hill, a fifth-round draft pick by the Chiefs, was convicted of strangulation and physical assault after a 2014 incident involving his pregnant ex-girlfriend after she was choked and punched in the stomach, Cindy Boren of the Washington Post reports.

 

Hill spoke in court in 2015, pleading: “ I wasn’t thinking. I just – I just reacted and hit her, choked her. I’m really sorry for that.” He too, like Brown, has been taking classes and “therapy sessions” which he says he is “dedicated to..to be a better man” (Boren).

 

Despite this violent conviction, the wide receiver has gained an abundance of positive attention from football audiences after his successful season on the Chiefs as he continues with no current assault accusations.

 

However, the seemingly biggest NFL domestic violence case involved Ray Rice, who, on security camera footage, punched his fiancee, Janay Palmer, in a casino elevator which knocked her unconscious, leading him to drag her across the floor, according to ESPN writer, McManus. Not only were fans and speculators outraged at the actions of the running back, but rumors surrounding the NFL’s possible knowledge of the videotape soon emerged.

 

According to Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN, the Ravens and Rice’s attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, consulted frequently with one another after viewing the tape, as the President of the Baltimore Ravens Dick Cass “did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice’s legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program.”

 

Rice was given a two-day suspension, pleaded not guilty “to an aggravated assault charge and applied for a pretrial intervention program to avoid prosecution,” McManus reports. The player was soon banned indefinitely from the league.

 

Players from the NFL are not the only ones who are commonly faced with domestic violence allegations; for instance, Jose Reyes of the MLB team the Colorado Rockies was arrested in 2015 over abuse charges after an argument with his wife Katherine.

 

Police reports state that the couple’s altercation soon “turned physical and resulted in injuries” when Reyes allegedly threw his wife into a sliding glass door and grabbed her by the throat, Thomas Harding of MLB.com details. Harding continues by acknowledging that Reyes’s wife was transported to the Maui Memorial Medical Center for treatment and Reyes was “released on $1,000 bond and ordered not to have contact with his wife for three days, according to the report.”

 

The MLB’s new Joint Domestic Violence Policy, signed by Commissioner Rob Manfred and the Major League Baseball Players Association, was violated by Reyes, according to Manfred, which cost him a 51 game suspension from the league (Harding). After his suspension, the New York Mets signed Reyes in 2016 where he continues to play today.

 

The NFL and MLB’s approach to cases like these have seemed to cause a rift between fans, the media, and the public. Some feel that professional leagues should have no interference in the criminal, and specifically the domestic violence cases of their athletes, while others find it necessary to punish guilty players and impose stricter policies on those accused.

 

Josh Brown and Ray Rice no longer participate in the NFL due to their domestic violence cases, whereas Tyreek Hill and Jose Reyes continue to compete in their respective sports.

 

Whether or not these athletes received proper punishment for their actions, these cases and countless others justify why professional sports leagues need to establish clearer policies and stricter guidelines as to how to handle, or not to handle, these serious incidents.

 

Works Cited:

Almasy, Steve. “NFL Kicker Josh Brown Released by Giants after Admitting Abuse.” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Oct. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.

Boren, Cindy. “Tyreek Hill Is a Rising Star with Chiefs, but past Domestic Abuse Incident Still

Hovers.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 09 Dec. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.

Florio, Mike. “Molly Brown: Giants Teammates Knew Of abuse.” ProFootballTalk. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

Harding, Thomas. “Rockies’ Jose Reyes Arrested, Charged.” Major League Baseball. N.p., 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 09 May 2017.

Jr., Don Van Natta, and Kevin Van Valkenburg. “Rice Case: Purposeful Misdirection by Team, Scant Investigation by NFL.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 May 2017.

Macur, Juliet. “N.F.L. Shows It Doesn’t Really Care About Domestic Violence.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Oct. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.

McManus, Jane. “If Not the Player, Ray Rice Asks You to Forgive the Man.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

Winsor, Morgan, and Julia Jacobo. “NFL Puts Giants’ Josh Brown on Paid Suspension Over Domestic Abuse.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.

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