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SportsZone editorials

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.



Thumbs up: Noah Rubin

I’m going to be honest here. This story makes me feel quite inadequate. But nonetheless I have to give a big thumbs up to Noah Rubin. Who is Noah Rubin? Good question.

Noah is a 19 year old American tennis player playing in the 2016 Australian Open. And Noah, just this weekend, won his first career professional tennis match.

But there’s more than just someone getting their first win. Rubin earned his first win, in a major tournament as just a wild card entry and ranked a lowly 328 in the world.

The American teenager ousted the 17 seed, Frenchman Benoit Paire, in straight sets, 7-6 7-6 7-6 to earn his first major victory. Though Paire was clearly not pleased with his own performance and his 72(!) unforced errors, I give a lot of credit to Rubin for being able to take advantage of the mistakes and string enough points together, even if Paire was not so complimentary of the youngster.

Beyond simply congratulating a young American tennis player, I feel a closer connection to this story. Noah Rubin hails from Long Island, New York and has actually played tennis at the same club where I used to back when I was playing sports rather than blogging about them. While I don’t know him personally-he is younger and much better than I am-I still feel like he deserves the shout out and that I have some connection to him and his success.

Additionally, since the retirement of Andy Roddick there has been a bit of a talent vacuum when it comes to American men’s tennis. John Isner is probably the best America has to offer at the moment on the men’s side but he struggles to make it deep into any major tournaments. Any potential young talent is worth keeping an eye on.

Rubin will advance and play another Frenchman, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, in the second round. Good luck to Noah and way to represent Long Island tennis!

Thumbs up: Blair Walsh

Now I know many of you reading the headline are asking “why are you giving a thumbs up to the dude who lost a playoff game for the Vikings?” And that is a fair question to ask. But bear with me and you’ll see why.

As mentioned above, Walsh, in the eyes of some, is the reason that the Vikings lost to the Seahawks last weekend in the playoffs. By the same token, the score was 10-9 so Walsh was the only reason the Vikes kept the score close, but you can understand the frustration at a missed 27 yard field goal, which is considered by many to be a chip shot.

But alas Walsh does miss his field goal and I’m sure got loads of hate from Minnesotans on Twitter. Though not everyone was so upset. A group of students at Northpoint Elementary School wrote Walsh letters of encouragement and had them sent to Vikings headquarters. For the students this was a class exercise on empathy.

But Walsh took it another step forward. He delayed his trip out of town-which takes courage in and of itself because I’m sure he’s not the most popular guy in Minnesota right now-to visit the school. He personally thanked the students for their messages and imparted some wisdom to the students as well.

Check out the video from ESPN here.

So that’s why Walsh gets a thumbs up. Because despite the miss, he remained a good and upbeat person and that’s exactly the person you want to be sending young children a message.

Thumbs Up: Mike Piazza

When Mike Piazza was traded to the New York Mets I was three years old. When he left the Mets, I was 10. Now, I know that even 10 is a young age to watch and fully understand sports.

But I remember Mike Piazza.

Many people of my generation born around the same time as me, recognize David Wright as the face of the Mets. And they should. Wright has been with the Mets for 11 years and he is the captain after all.

But I do remember a time before there was David Wright. When the guy you wanted at the plate in a big spot wore number 31 and not number 5.

For the longest time, the Hall of Fame was full of myths and legends. The Hank Aarons and Jackie Robinsons and Willie Mayses of the world. Those players whose feats you heard about but couldn’t understand because you weren’t there.

Now I’ve reached the point in my life where the inductees are people that I’ve seen play. Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. are all players who, though it takes effort, I can remember having seen.

But none of them have the impact that Piazza did for me. Everybody picks out their favorite player on their favorite team, either consciously or subconsciously. The first guy that I came to recognize as a good player, the face of a team and someone who brought hope and joy to fans was Mike Piazza.

There is something special to me about seeing Piazza get elected to the Hall of Fame. New York will always love Mike. We will always remember the late game dramatics and the heroism. The monstrous power and the healing power of one swing.

But beyond all that I will always have a soft spot for Mike Piazza. He was my first sports hero and this election is an honor that was 4 years overdue for the greatest offensive catcher in the history of the game and a man who was a pleasure to watch play the game of baseball.

So thumbs up and congratulations to Mike Piazza on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now the Mets need to get with the program and retire his number 31.