The unacceptable problem of domestic abuse in professional sports

Written by on December 9, 2015 in Orioles, Ravens, Sports, Uncategorized - No comments

All of my readers out there know that I am a total stat nerd.  I was a math major and have also been a baseball fan since I can remember, so stats are something I have always been interested in. 

One stat that is always impressive is 105.1 mph, the fastest pitch ever recorded in the history of baseball.  That pitch was thrown by Aroldis Chapman in 2010, however that number has become meaningless over the past few hours as news broke of something else Chapman did.  According to a police report obtained by Yahoo! Sports, Chapman fired eight gunshots in the garage of his home in Davie, Florida and was accused of choking his girlfriend on October 30, 2015. 

Speaking of stats, here are some others that will blow your mind, and not in a good way:

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), every 9 seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. Between 21-60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.

Sounds crazy, right?  Well, it’s reality here in America and all over the world.  Care for some additional stats courtesy of Alanna Vagianos of the Huffington Post?  In an article from February 13, 2015, the number of American troops killed in Afganistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488.  The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex-male partners during that same time was 11,766.

Every minute, 20 people are victims of intimate partner violence.

I’m not sorry for being a Debbie Downer with this week’s article, but this is a topic that needs to be discussed on a regular interval, and not just when some dumb jock from the Dallas Cowboys gets reinstated to the NFL after abusing his then girlfriend (I’m looking at you, Greg Hardy).  

Is Hardy the only person to abuse a woman in the NFL?  Absolutely not.  Sports fans in Baltimore are very familiar with the story of Ray Rice who was arrested in early 2014 for punching his then fiancée (now wife) in an elevator in Atlantic City and knocking her unconscious.  Rice was facing third-degree aggravated assault charges which were dropped after Rice agreed to undergo court-supervised counseling.  Rice was initially suspended for two games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but only after seeing the videotape of the incident did Goodell say he “didn’t get it right”.  You think? The Baltimore Ravens eventually cut Rice from their team and he has not played in the NFL since.

The NFL has done a terrible job of handling these types of situations.  Now, I am all for second chances, but the punishments are not reflective of the crimes.  Why?  Because the NFL is a results-oriented league and thanks to those results are a multi-billion dollar industry.  

Let’s go back to the Greg Hardy incident.  Hardy is a 27 year old defensive end who currently plays for the Cowboys.  At 6’5” and 280 pounds, he is certainly a force to be reckoned with on the football field.  Hardy started his career with the Carolina Panthers where he played from 2010 until 2014 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2013.  Hardy holds Carolina’s single season sack record with 15 and also their single game sack record with four.  

Hardy was about to become a free agent during the 2014 off-season, however after the first game of the season Hardy was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list while his domestic case played out.  As it turned out, Hardy stayed on that exempt list for the entire season yet still made his $13 million.  The Panthers would not re-sign him in March of 2015, and then shortly thereafter, the Cowboys signed him to a one year deal worth $11.3 million.  The following month, he was suspended for the first 10 games of the season without pay for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. But thanks to the player’s union, that suspension was reduced to four games.  

What did Hardy do?  Hardy was found guilty by a judge and independent investigation by the NFL for committing several acts of physical violence against his then girlfriend.  He also threw her on a bed full of assault rifles, just in case the physical violence wasn’t bad enough.

Since he has come back to play in the league, he has done absolutely nothing to justify a second chance.  Here is a quick list of things he has done or said since being reinstated:When asked by a reporter if he was ready to ramp up to play, Hardy responded by saying he was going to come out, “guns blazing”.  

He was also asked about if he had any remorse for his actions to which he answered, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be here for my teammates.  You know, the worst feeling in the world is not being there for someone you care about or someone that needs you.”  I guess girlfriends don’t fall into that category, according to Hardy.

Right after that incident, Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said about Hardy, “He’s of course one of the real leaders on the team,” which begs the question, “Who else is on that team?” 

Hardy tweeted messages about being “guilty until proven innocent” which is an interesting strategy given that he was in fact proven guilty at a 2014 bench trial.  The only reason the charge was expunged from his record was because his girlfriend, Nicole Holder, was unavailable for the jury trial, because Hardy had allegedly paid her to keep quiet according to the prosecutor. A claim that Hardy did not refute.

As of the writing of this article, Hardy still is playing in the NFL, making his base salary of $573,529 per game.  Hardy also makes a $500,000 bonus if he gets eight sacks, and another $1 million bonus if he gets 10 sacks.  Personally, I would give Jerry Jones a bonus if he sacks Hardy completely and removes him from the team.  

Abusers like this need to be removed from the sport.  If you’ve watched an NFL game over the past few weeks, you most likely have seen their commercials where people receive presents of NFL clothing for their favorite team.  The commercial ends with a quote that reads, “Football is Family.”  If they let people like Hardy continue to play in the NFL, then I have no idea what type of family they have over there at the NFL.  

What also makes the NFL look bad is that a good majority of households watch the Thanksgiving Day games while they spend time with their family.  The Dallas Cowboys just so happen to be one of the teams that plays each year on Thanksgiving, the other being the Detroit Lions.  Hey NFL, if you’re putting a product on TV at a time when families are giving thanks and spending time together, maybe try to have a better product on the field with less criminals.

The Cowboys and the NFL have a moral obligation to do something about Hardy. Kids everywhere watch the NFL and when they see that this behavior is acceptable so long as you do good things on the field, then that will only further maintain this mindset.  

Another example of this is Floyd Mayweather, a professional boxer. According to Business Insider, since 2002, Mayweather has plead guilty to two incidents of domestic abuse and was convicted in another but those charges were dismissed four years later.  Mayweather also served 90 days in jail thanks to an incident where he hit his ex-girlfriend in front of two of their children at 5am.  In case you think I don’t have a stat for this, sadly, I do….

Worldwide, men who were exposed to domestic violence as children are three to four times more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence as adults than men who did not experience domestic abuse as children. Mayweather made $100 million for his fight against Manny Pacquiao.  Funny thing about that fight, during the match the (arguably) best player in baseball Mike Trout tweeted his loyalty to Mayweather.  When followers of Trout responded to him by blasting him for supporting a woman abuser, Trout said, “I just root for him in the ring.”  Torii Hunter, another baseball player expressed the same sentiments.  None of us make any profit off of these hooligans, at least not like the team’s owners do, so who cares how good they are in the ring or on the field?  If they worked in an office like the majority of us, they would most likely get canned or seriously shunned at work.  Apparently Trout and Hunter feel different.

While I don’t condone what Michael Vick did to those dogs, I feel people were more upset over that than what Mayweather, Hardy and others do to women.  Both crimes deserve serious attention. That type of mindset is troubling to say the least.  We should not be rooting for these people in any capacity, with the only exception being for them to get real help and stop abusing women.

While Roger Goodell completely whiffed at getting things right in the NFL, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has the spotlight on him to get things right.  Not only does he have the pending issue and investigation with Aroldis Chapman, there was another incident involving Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes where he was arrested on October 31, 2015 for assaulting his wife.  His wife claimed that they had an argument that turned physical where Reyes allegedly grabbed her by the throat and slammed her into a glass door, giving her injuries to her neck, thigh and wrist.  Major League Baseball has a new domestic violence policy which was introduced in August.  That policy gives the MLB Commissioner broad powers to discipline players, even if they are not convicted, with no minimum or maximum parameters on the punishment.  My hope is that if these players did in fact commit these offenses, Manfred comes down extremely hard on them.

Someone needs to stand up for doing the right thing.  Since the NFL seems to not care, hopefully Major League Baseball, America’s true pastime, will step up to the plate.

Oh, by the way, during the 10 minutes it took you to read this article, another 67 women were just beaten.

by Andy Mindzak

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