Earlier this week, the NFL stood on the front line of domestic violence prevention, as MLB remains indecisively on the sidelines. http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/11425377/nfl-implements-domestic-violence-penalties
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a mea culpa in a statement that was backed by action. The policy, essentially, tells players that to commit a violent act against a woman is unacceptable and punishable. The six-day suspension for a first offense is good, but the lifetime ban for a second offense shows almost unbelievable commitment on the part of the commissioner.
The NFL is not only giving their current players a standard to uphold, but sending a message to aspiring football players, who now have much more to aspire to than being good on the field.
So where is our beloved baseball in all this? Where is their stance and clear message for veterans, aspiring players, and minor leaguers?
Baseball PTB aren't shy about standing strong on many things. Those things include gambling and Pete Rose's lifetime ban. Also included is a giant stand on women's attire, sorry, baseball reporters attire in the press box. They banned shirts and dresses without sleeves. Because, integrity.
Let's be clear. The rule that Rose broke isn't connected or comparable to anything else. One doesn't make the other better. He broke the no-gambling-on-baseball rule, he agreed to the ban, and whether that ban is lifted later this year, or ever, is a whole other issue.
As for no sleeves, I've broken this rule and so has every other woman. I'm not sure anyone noticed, but so far, we've not been banned.
But it's game time for MLB on the issue of domestic violence. And therre's no excuse for hesitation. If female reporter's, sorry, reporters of all genders needed to watch what they were wearing, so as not to seem unprofessional in the name of integrity, why are players not held to the same standards as human beings?
We've seen players not just accused of domestic violence, but also rape, and most of them continue to play. They certainly weren't punished on any level that showed MLB cared about violence against women. Rays pitcher Josh Lueke, now in the playoffs with the Durham Bulls, called his rape of a woman, 'just one of those freak things.' Players such as Brett Myers and Carlos Marmol were accused of domestic violence. The Phillies immediate response was to put Myers back on the hill, post-incident. He was promptly booed at Fenway Park, not far from where he allegedly had hit his wife.Myers was never suspended, he simply took a leave of absence. The case was eventually dismissed due to his wife's decision not to press charges.
While Myers stood before the media in a press conference and admitted wrongdoing, taking full responsibility for his actions. MLB was never alarmed by the incident, nor do they ever seem alarmed by any of these acts of violence.
For all of Rose's self-interest in having the ban lifted, he's always made an excellent point. Why are these guys never punished for committing violence against women?
Minor league players are particularly vulnerable to immaturity and a lack of respect for those around them. Some are coming straight from high school into professional life, others are coming from the Dominican Republic, as young as 16, into a new culture. No one in MLB is giving them clear-cut guidelines on how to conduct themselves as men when it comes to women. There's been incidents reported over the years, misconduct that sometimes compels teams to make a statement (The Rays actually suspended minor league outfielder Josh Sale for making lewd statements on his Facebook page about a stripper). But that's not enough. This needs to go big. This needs to be a priority on the part of MLB.
Here's what Goodell said in regard to young football players:
"We will expand the educational components in our college, high school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and sexual assault."
That is commitment deserving of a round of very long applause.
Minor leaguers receive every kind of training, that now includes social media guidelines for players that they're required to follow.
http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/03/14/major-league-baseball-releases-its-social-media-policy-and-its-pretty-good/ They're taught how to handle the media, how to hustle, how to stay in shape, and what time the bus leaves. But they aren't being told that to assault your girlfriend, wife, or a girl you're just out having fun with is punishable with a six-game suspension on first offense and a Pete Rose type lifetime ban for the next offense. That would be amazing.
On a personal note, I'm a survivor of relationship violence, something I experienced at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. I wrote about it here and in case you missed it, that story was titled 'How Surviving An Abusive Relationship Influences My Career In Baseball.' Imagine my frustration knowing how little the very sport I've loved all my life and make my living in, refuses to take a stand on a serious crime against women.
Roger Goodell has set the bar. And I thank him. MLB is standing in the NFL's shadow, on their soapbox about Pete Rose and media attire. Those are important issues. But doing nothing to punish players for violence against women taints the sport.
They can't take a solid stand on those issues, without being champions for the prevention of domestic violence as well.