Domestic Violence in Professional Sports Is Out of Control

Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia is currently facing the consequences of a domestic violence incident that took place at his home in New Jersey. He was arrested on Nov. 11th,  2016 and later released on $1500 bail. Major League Baseball has yet to take any disciplinary action against Familia, but it is almost certain that a suspension will be issued for the start of the 2017 season.

What makes the incident even more appalling is that Familia was featured in an ad campaign launched by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence just under a month before his arrest. The #NotAFan campaign features other big names in the sports world such as Joe Girardi, John Starks, and Rod Gilbert who say that they are a fan of their team, but not a fan of domestic violence.

It is a sad reality that we are no longer surprised when we hear of another case of domestic violence at the hands of a professional athlete. However, in the case of Familia, it is nothing short of shocking that he did this such a short time after pledging that he would not.

Familia’s case is unfortunately one of the many related to domestic violence that professional sports have seen in recent years.

Former Colorado Rockies’ shortstop, José Reyes, also had a recent run-in with the law for domestic violence. After an incident in Oct. 2015 that left his wife with injuries to her leg and scratches on her neck, Reyes was arrested, and shortly after released on only $1000 bail; an insignificant amount compared to his yearly salary. Nothing further came of the investigation as Reyes’ wife was unwilling to cooperate as a witness.

Reyes was signed by the Mets in 2016. He made significant contributions to the team as they overcame injuries to key players en route to the wild card game. His domestic violence incident surely lurks in the back of the minds of some fans, but it is my belief that for most it is an afterthought.

Sticking with baseball,  Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs was the first athlete to receive disciplinary action from MLB after its implementation of the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy. As a whole, this policy serves to hold players accountable for their actions in the realm of domestic violence. Chapman violently assaulted his girlfriend in his home in Miami in Oct. 2014, and was not eligible to play at the start of the 2015 season, when he was a member of the New York Yankees.

While it is progressive that MLB has taken the steps necessary to implement a policy against such actions, it will be curious to see whether or not preliminary discipline actually deters future incidents. In other words, I’m not sure that the precedent of a 30 game unpaid suspension has significant enough a financial impact on players to prevent future infractions of the sort.

In addition, a short-term unpaid suspension is 100% NOT sufficient enough a punishment for such appalling actions. It is a dismal part of our culture that props athletes up on such a pedestal that cases like these are forgotten shortly after they occur.

In the NFL, we have seen far too many domestic violence cases in recent years. The first to occur in the 2016 year was the case of Johnny Manziel. The former Cleveland Browns quarterback was dropped by both the team and his agent after an incident that left his ex-girlfriend deaf in one ear.

Another substantial case of domestic violence involving an NFL player was that of Ray Rice. Rice was arrested in May of 2014 for the assault of his then fiancée, now wife, in an elevator in Atlantic City. A video surfaced of Rice dragging an unconscious body out of the elevator after he had knocked her out. The former Baltimore Ravens running back was dropped by the team, and the league suspended him indefinitely. While this is certainly a more severe punishment than those handed down by the MLB, I do not believe that it is sufficient enough given the actions taken by Rice.

After the Ray Rice incident, the NFL vowed to take action in combating the widespread problem of domestic abuse across the league. Public service announcements, including a very powerful one that can be seen here were created by the organization No More, and supported by the NFL. This one in particular was showcased as a commercial during Super Bowl 49.

While the NFL has taken some initiative in their disciplinary actions against offenders of domestic violence within their business, are they really doing enough? I’m not sure that enough can ever be obtained in this sense. Despite the NFL’s attempt at progression, we seem to hear of new cases of domestic abuse on a regular basis. The problem lies in the fact that professional athletes are under the impression that because they are professional athletes, they can get away with this behavior having only suffered the loss of a minor portion of their income. Or, worst case scenario, getting dropped by a team and having to wait on another to pick them up.

Ultimately, the problem of domestic violence in Major League Baseball and the National Football League is completely out of control, and nothing up to this point has been overly effective in combating it.



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