Is it possible that one major sorts league finally got the domestic violence issue correct? Domestic violence and sexual abuse have been common headlines in sports for the past few years. These cases involve professional athletes, college athletes, and even high school athletes. The problem is only made worse by the “blame the victim” culture that seems to surround, not only sports, but society as a whole. It just might be possible that one sports league has found a way to break that horrible cycle and actually “help” those involved in these types of cases.
When the NFL found themselves embroiled in a mess over the Ray Rice case last year, the MLB stated it would come up with a “comprehensive plan” to address the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault. Last week, they announced their plan to the world. This plan did take a year to be put together, but it was jointly done between MLB and the Players Association.
The significance of this announcement is that both sides worked together to make it happen. That is really something. The MLB and its relations with the Players Association was the most fractious relationship for decades. The Union didn’t trust the Owners, and the Owners didn’t trust the Union. They really hated each other.
However, peace has broken out between the two groups. When the NFL found itself in its quagmire over domestic violence with the Ray Rice case as well as others, MLB and their Players Union didn’t want to get sucked into that same quagmire.
The resulting “comprehensive plan” should be looked at by all other sports leagues as a model to follow. Here is a breakdown of this plan:
- At the heart of the plan there will be a seven-person Joint Policy Board, composed of two members each from MLB and the players’ union, along with three experts in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. One of the board’s expert members will submit a treatment plan to the full board for approval and oversee the player’s compliance with the plan.
- A player’s treatment plan could include submitting to psychological evaluations, counseling sessions, court compliance, relocating from a home shared with his partner, limiting interactions with his partner, relinquishing of weapons and other “reasonable directives” to ensure safety of victims. Concurrently, the commissioner’s office will investigate any allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse and can place the player on seven-day administrative league during the investigation, subject to appeal.
- Discipline will come at the commissioner’s discretion, and the policy does not include suggested guidelines for length of suspension; rather, it allows Manfred to “issue the discipline he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct. The Commissioner’s authority to discipline is not dependent on whether the player is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime.” Players can appeal their discipline and have that hearing held by an independent arbitrator.
- They will establish a 24-hour, confidential help line for players and their families, with bilingual experts available.
It must be noted that this plan is not just about punishment. It includes a treatment plan as well. The objective here isn’t just to punish a player, but to help that player change bad behavior. That is something that is woefully missing from other leagues and their plans.
The fact that three members of the Joint Policy Board are experts in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse is extremely encouraging. That means people with knowledge of all of the ramifications for everyone involved in domestic abuse can be fully understood.
Some will criticize that there are no “set limits of suspension” in these cases. I don’t have a problem with that. Each case should be evaluated on its own. Punishment should be appropriate to the severity of the case. The fact that both sides agreed that any appeals will be heard by an independent arbitrator takes away all of the finger-pointing we now see in the NFL.
When Commissioner Rob Manfred and Union Chief Tony Clark released details of the agreement, they said it aims to: “reflect the gravity and the sensitivities of these significant societal issues. We believe that these efforts will foster not only an approach of education and prevention but also a united stance against these matters throughout our sport and our communities.”
“Players are husbands, fathers, sons and boyfriends,” said players’ association executive director Tony Clark in a statement. “And as such want to set an example that makes clear that there is no place for domestic abuse in our society.
“We are hopeful that this new comprehensive, collectively-bargained policy will deter future violence, promote victim safety, and serve as a step toward a better understanding of the causes and consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.”
I don’t know what you think about MLB. But, this is a perfect example of how two sides can sit down and come up with a comprehensive plan that takes into consideration the victims of domestic violence. It shows that organizations can come up with plans that help everyone and not just have knee-jerk reactions to headlines.
MLB and the Players Association should be applauded for their actions on this matter. They seem to “get it” on this matter.