When Ray Rice was captured on video punching his wife in the face in an elevator in 2014, the dialogue, activism and social awareness concerning domestic violence issues in America intensified exponentially.
Not that domestic violence hasn’t been an alarming and prevalent issue in America for decades, but it is one of those character traits that we don’t feel comfortable acknowledging and accepting that it happens frequently in our country. We are also hesitant to clutter our "perfect" sports landscape -- where human superheroes execute bewildering feats of athleticism -- with the ugly realities of a player's private life. The media, however, makes sure we don’t forget how flawed and human these mythical men can be.
Most of them are idolized, until the world gets a two-minute glimpse and shocking revelation of what a domestic violence situation looks like. Rice and his wife Janay have since reconciled. His career is for all intents and purposes is over and he will forever be labeled in history as the woman abuser whose egregious actions inspired an entire cultural, philosophical and legislative transformation in professional sports concerning domestic violence offenders.
In the past, the pro sports landscape showed no real remorse for the victims of domestic violence. The OJ Simpson case shed some light on it briefly but then it faded into the background. Rice’s situation changed that. The NFL went as far as hiring qualified women to advise and develop new strict policies regarding domestic violence issues. MLB followed suit shortly after and it didn’t take long to see these new rules take effect.
Jose Reyes has become the first player to be suspended under new Major League Baseball rules addressing domestic violence issues. The Colorado Rockies shortstop, a four-time All-Star player who earns $22 million a year, has been placed on paid leave while he faces criminal proceedings.
Reyes, 32, was arrested at a Maui resort in October following an argument with his wife. He is alleged to have pushed her into a glass balcony door causing bruises and cuts on her neck, thigh and other parts of her body. His trial is schedule to start on April 4th, the same day that the Rockies play at Arizona to blast off the 2016 MLB season.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Tuesday that Reyes, who pleaded not guilty to charges of “abuse of a family and/or household member,“ is suspended pending a resolution of the criminal case.
The new policy was implemented in August after several months of negotiations between league officials and MLB’s players’ association. It came in response to a number of high-profile domestic violence cases in the country.
“Major League Baseball and its Clubs are proud to adopt a comprehensive policy that reflects the gravity and the sensitivities of these significant societal issues,” Manfred said in a statement at the time.
Domestic violence incidents have become a growing priority as pro leagues continue to expand their moral codes.
Earlier this month, Dallas police investigated maligned Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel after his girlfriend filed a complaint. Floyd Mayweather was jailed in 2012 for a domestic violence incident and still hasn’t been able to shake his conviction or critics.
All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, who was recently signed by the Yankees isn’t in the same situation as Reyes, but he may still have to trudge through some murky waters if he wants to avoid a suspension this season.
Chapman is awaiting Major League Baseball’s announcement regarding a potential suspension stemming from a domestic violence altercation in October. Chapman allegedly pushed and choked his girlfriend, Cristina Barnea, then fired multiple shots from a gun inside his garage.
However, the much-publicized and potentially explosive incident was a dud as unusually-cautious Florida prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges after investigating the matter.
“I understand that everybody is worried about the issue and I understand that everybody wants to know, “Chapman told the media when he reported to spring training on Feb. 18, “but it’s something that is out of my hands. My main focus is to play baseball. I feel great. I’m happy to be here and I can’t wait to get started.”
Despite the prosecutor's’ decision not to pursue criminal charges, Chapman may still be suspended by the league under the new domestic violence policy, especially if their independent investigation discovers something that the Florida prosecutor’s office could not.
The worst case scenario for Chapman is behind him. According to the state of Florida, he did nothing wrong and Florida has some of the the strictest firearm discharge laws in the country. On the other hand, Reyes’ situation is almost certain to end with more suspension time, especially if he is convicted of the offense in court.
In any event, the lesson here is that players need to smarten up take care of home. The locker room, the field, the team, the organization and The League, will no longer be a safe haven for actions that contain even a hint of misogyny.