The Daily Illini

MLB’s swing and miss against domestic violence

Cassidy Brandt

Cassidy Brandt

By Abby Weber, Columnist

When Addison Russell began playing for the Chicago Cubs in 2015, he quickly won over the hearts of northsiders everywhere. Sporting the same first name as the street Wrigley Field resides on, Addison Russell joined the Cubs as a 21-year-old phenom whose on-field ability kept him in the spotlight for the coming years.

Beginning his career as the youngest active player at the time, Addison Russell became a symbol of hope to young Americans with dreams of baseball. He was a crucial member of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series-winning team and was named an All-Star that year.

In June 2017 and again in September 2018, news of domestic violence allegations against Russell circulated, sending shockwaves to disbelieving fans everywhere. Many people continued their support of Russell throughout the rest of the 2017 and 2018 seasons despite these allegations. This is a direct reflection of MLB’s poor handling of the situation.

As a society, it is clear we are struggling to take domestic violence accusations seriously. If large corporations with a substantial media presence like MLB do not take appropriate actions against those accused, then the public’s attitude will reflect this, perpetuating the problem.

MLB instituted a domestic violence policy in 2015 to acknowledge the ongoing abuse problems the sport witnessed. Nowhere within the policy is any kind of explicit disciplinary action stated. MLB’s disciplinary policy directly states “the Commissioner will decide on appropriate discipline, with no minimum or maximum penalty under the policy. Players may challenge such decisions to the arbitration panel.” Though this policy may seem outwardly progressive, it is ineffective and essentially useless in disciplining players and educating the public.

The first time MLB referred to this policy was in October 2015,  just two months after the policy was enacted. Jose Reyes, then a Colorado Rockies player, was arrested for throwing his wife into a glass door.  In a 2016 Sports Illustrated article, it was reported that Reyes was suspended without pay for about a month and a half, losing about $7 million.

Since this suspension, Jose Reyes continued to play MLB with the New York Mets with a $2 million dollar salary, crossed the 500-career-stolen-bases mark and participated in playoff games. Essentially, once MLB acknowledges the incident enough to appease public outcry, incidents like these are forgotten and these players continue making millions of dollars while America looks up to them.

A perfect example of the toxic attitude this policy creates is this statement from the Yankees’ owner regarding another notorious domestic-violence perpetrator, Aroldis Chapman: “He paid the penalty. Sooner or later, we forget, right? That’s the way we’re supposed to be in life. He did everything right and said everything right when he was with us.”

If MLB does not amend its policy to create harsher punishments, such as termination, domestic violence within baseball will continue and ambivalent attitudes toward domestic violence in the United States will continue to persist as well.

Abby is a sophomore in LAS.

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