Last Thursday, The New York Times published a piece with a headline stating that "Ray Rice Is an Outlier: Most Domestic Abuse Suspects Play On."
The article, written by Karen Crouse, goes onto describe in detail how many professional sports leagues- the MLB, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, etc., tolerate charges of domestic violence against their players. Many athletes who are accused or convicted of domestic violence are continuously allowed to keep on playing. Examples given include the NFL's Greg Hardy, and Jason Kidd, a former NBA player who now coaches in the league-both have domestic violence convictions. Although certain teams have no-tolerance policies against domestic violence (the Seattle Mariners of the MLB are the example given by Crouse), the overwhelming culture that permeates the majority of the professional sports leagues in the United States is one of apathy.
The most disconcerting quote in the article is one given by the 2006 general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Pat Gillick. Gillick's ace pitcher, Brett Myers, was arrested on domestic violence charges while the Phillies were on a road trip to Boston. Witnesses saw Myers strike his wife in her face, in addition to pulling her hair. Myers took the mound to pitch against the Red Sox 36 hours later. When questioned about the decision, Gillick responded:
"He's our best pitcher."
The charges against Myers later were dropped, which is not unusual. Victims of domestic violence often face coercion from their partners, or society as a whole, to do so.
As a former employee of two professional sports organizations, I can't help but wonder: when will I, and other survivors of violence, say enough is enough, and remove our support of these organizations? It's evident by this culture of apathy that these organizations that their focus is on the bottom line; that bottom line being lining their pockets with cash from their fanbase. Women are a growing fanbase for many sports industries.
In order for change to be enacted, fans would need to hit the leagues where it hurts: their wallets. Arguably, if women withheld their support of professional sports leagues until a no-tolerance domestic violence policy was enacted, the leagues would be forced to listen.