MLB Has a New Domestic Violence Policy

August 23rd, 2015 by AmyMac | Filed under Baseball, General, MLB.
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Baseball Commisioner Rob Mandred is working to decrease incidents of domestic violence.

It seems that every year, we see more and more professional athletes investigated for (and sometimes charged with) domestic assault. While the incidents of off-the-field violence provide us a a small look into the abuse from which so many suffer every single day, consequences for the offenders seldom set an appropriate example. Professional athletes have historically had a knack for getting slaps on the wrist for both misdemeanor and felony assault. Up until very recently, professional sports organizations haven’t done nearly enough to administer discipline to these players.

This past Friday, Major League Baseball and the players’ union announced a new policy that involves the intervention, discipline, and treatment for players associated with domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault. MLB issued the following statement:

“The Commissioner’s Office will implement additional policies to cover Minor League players, as well as everyone employed by a Major League or Minor League club, and the Commissioner’s Office, and the MLBPA will also implement an all-encompassing domestic abuse policy for its staff.”

There will now be resources for those players (and their families) involved in abuse or violent incidents. The focus will be to provide education, intervention, and discipline. It’s worth noting that other professional organizations (looking at you, NFL) have had a greater number of known violent incidents than Major League Baseball has had.

Apparently, offenders will meet with a panel of three “experts” (no word on what that entails, exactly) who can provide treatment and counseling. Commissioner Rob Manfred will have full authority to judge whether or not sanctions should be issued. There are no minimum or maximum punishments laid out in the policy, and “the Commissioner’s authority to discipline is not dependent on whether the player is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime.” While it’s important to remember that each incident and investigation is different, I worry that the language in this policy allows for a large margin of error. If sanctions won’t necessarily correspond with legal findings, how can we expect any sort of consistency from the Commissioner’s office? When it comes to domestic violence and child abuse, shouldn’t the consequences be cut-and-dry?

If the Commissioner issues sanctions, a player can choose to appeal to an arbitration panel (an MLB representative, an MLBPA representative, and an independent arbitrator). This is notably different from the way that the NFL (or, more accurately, Commissioner Roger Goodell) deals with discipline and arbitration.

Thankfully (and, in my opinion, most importantly), Major League Baseball’s new policy also includes a proactive approach to preventing violent incidents before they happen. There is now an educational prevention program that is mandatory for all MLB-affiliated clubs – Majors and Minors. The 24-hour helpline for players and their families is available in English and Spanish.

Please don’t be mistaken; I think that anything that might prevent sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse is progress. My hope, though, is that MLB’s new policy is just a small step toward protecting the families of professional athletes. Additionally, I want to see plenty of qualified females on the panels that provide treatment and administer justice. Of course, there needs to be strong and vocal advocacy for the victims (mostly women and children), but ultimately, what I want to see is a completely different approach to a problem that is not exclusive to professional athletes. Of course, we teach our girls how to be safe and how to try to decrease their chances of being victims of violence. We need to put just as much emphasis on teaching our boys not to be abusive – and these lessons should not start when they’re grown men.

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