What exactly do sports organizations mean when they claim zero tolerance to off-the-field incidents? I hear and read it repetitively used by them when they respond to heinous crimes in the realm of domestic violence, rape, and murder, but to what extent do they stand against it? What do the Atlanta Braves in particular mean in response to Marcell Ozuna’s recent domestic violence arrest?
More often than not, we witness what many would consider only a slap on the wrist towards those who commit these acts, especially those who bring a ton of value professionally. It’s not only time, but long overdue that personal conduct is taken seriously, and the practical coddling for those who lack it comes to an end. Major League Baseball must start handling domestic violence cases appropriately, and if it will, the Ozuna case must be taken seriously.
Ozuna Case Must Be Taken Seriously: MLB’s History In Domestic Violence Policy
Believe it or not, there wasn’t even a policy implemented in how to respond to domestic violence crimes until 2015. You read that right. It took almost 140 years of MLB existence before a policy would be devised. Outside of an outlier in 1997, which you will read about soon enough, the first punishment from the league wouldn’t be handed out until March 1, 2016, with New York Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman suspended 30 games.
Obviously, it’s practically impossible that the league’s first incident they were ever made aware of came about this late into their existence, but it did take them that long to finally, consistently respond. And while there’s SOME structure now to treat these cases, it still falls very short of the necessary standard to appropriately handle them.
Back to that outlier in 1997, the Boston Red Sox chose to sit left fielder and all-star Wil Cordero for only eight games then after being arrested on assault and battery charges for his actions towards his wife Ana Cordero. It initially wasn’t even termed a suspension, as if that would be too shameful for someone who would end up pleading guilty to both threatening and assaulting his wife with a dangerous weapon, leaving her with a bloody nose and neck bruises.
Although it would extend only to 19 total games suspended, Cordero went on to play eight more years and, all the while, be arrested twice more for assault and another domestic battery case involving a different woman.
Fast forward a bit to all-star outfielder Milton Bradley, who, by the mid-2000s, had already been the subject of multiple domestic violence calls that the MLB seemingly disregarded as a concern. This was in addition to anger-management counseling he was receiving, due to his inappropriate conduct on the field as well.
There were even criminal threats made towards his wife Monique Bradley in 2011 prior to the season, and yet he still appeared in 28 games for the Seattle Mariners that year. He went on to have a litany of other domestic violence accusations with multiple convictions, including one in 2013 that involved more death threats, assault with a baseball bat on his wife Monique, and 15 months served in prison as a result.
More recently, in 2018, Houston Astros’ closer Roberto Osuna was given a 75 game suspension, who was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Astros while he was under suspension. Not many details have been revealed about the case other than that Osuna had been accused of assault on his girlfriend, also the mother of their three-year-old child, that had left “significant injuries”.
The domestic assault charges were ultimately dropped by, but MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred still suspended him, and the Astros couldn’t have welcomed him in with more open arms despite protest. There was former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who was terminated for separate reasons, allegedly saying “I don’t want your moral opinion. I want your baseball opinion,” when asking about info to his front office staff on potentially acquiring Osuna in the trade.
One of those he was speaking to was former Astros’ assistant general manager in Brandon Taubman, who went on to taunt multiple female reporters later in the 2018 postseason about the acquisition of Osuna. In a mockingly demeaning fashion, Taubman antagonized the reporters by exclaiming he was “so glad” the Astros got Osuna after one of the reporters donned a domestic violence awareness ribbon on her clothes. He would go onto lose his job for the incident.
Other notable cases where players may have gotten off easy include former batting title champion Jose Reyes. He was suspended for just 51 games in 2016 after he allegedly grabbed his wife by the throat and threw her through a sliding glass door. The New York Mets though decided to pick him up though just two weeks after returning from suspension. Odubel Herrera sat out the majority of the 2019 season as part of an 85 game suspension for an incident that left handprint parks on his girlfriend’s throat and scratches on her arm. He’s now back on the Philadelphia Phillies roster in his normal spot in centerfield.
Ozuna Case Must Be Taken Seriously: The Pervasive Culture
What this proves is that the inappropriate culture of acquiescing domestic violence to fester within MLB, not to mention society as a whole, continues to exist. It proves that passes are given to those that supply the talent the organization wants to thrive, as each of the players mentioned above uncoincidentally was a former all-star. It proves that we are still so very far from legitimate accountability for what are incidents capable of ruining lives both physically and mentally. It even proves that many high-ups are so dug into this apathetic attitude about it, they’re willing to even taunt those who are a part of communities most affected by this brutality.
This is also not just an MLB problem either, as the NFL has fallen under more fire for how they’ve handled cases involving violent crimes, where fewer than 40 percent of the accused had received suspensions. And it’s a widespread issue too. What we’re seeing doesn’t just apply to those in entertainment. It’s a societal response that has fallen short. The public judicial systems, like the NFL and MLB, as a whole haven’t fared much better in recent years with cracking down on these cases in cities like New Orleans and Cleveland.
Ozuna case Must Be Taken Seriously: Ozuna’s History With Domestic Violence
For Ozuna, this marks the first time he was arrested, but not the first time he was involved in a domestic violence case. His wife, Genesis, actually had been arrested for similar charges, after allegedly throwing a soap dish at Ozuna’s face back in June of 2020. While his wife’s alleged actions were certainly condemnable within that incident, Ozuna doesn’t deserve any sympathy from both the MLB and the courts if he is, in fact, guilty of this second incident. Utilizing a cast as a weapon to batter and brutalize a woman, all the while strangling her and threatening to kill her, is disturbing to the utmost degree, whether accounting for the backstory or not.
According to the police, they had already witnessed Ozuna grabbing her by the neck and throwing her against the wall after arriving on the scene. As a result, Ozuna, who was released on a $20,000 bond, faces a minimum of a one-year prison sentence with a maximum of 20 years served, according to Georgia Law, if convicted on felony aggravated assault.
Ozuna Case Must Be Taken Seriously: Atlanta Braves History with Domestic Violence
The Braves were quick to respond to Ozuna’s arrest on the night it happened, “stressing” that it will “not tolerate domestic violence in any form.” We’ll see to what degree they mean by that statement when the case is ruled in court. The franchise has had previous experience with domestic violence accusations attached to former members of the organization, including utility player Hector Olivera back in 2016.
Olivera was just the fourth player ever suspended for domestic violence-related crimes, missing 82 games and serving 10 days in jail after a court ruled him guilty for a domestic abuse incident at a hotel that left his then-girlfriend with bruises on her body. He went on to be traded to the San Diego Padres before he was eligible to return from the suspension and never played in MLB again.
Not Just Players
Even legendary manager Bobby Cox has had ties to domestic violence accusations. An arrest report dating back to 1995 revealed Cox was detained for an incident that allegedly involved a physical confrontation between him and his wife that had, according to the report, occurred several times before. Cox did admit to grabbing his wife by the forehead and the hair to keep her away but denied the act of punching her like the report had indicated his wife had accused him of. His wife later denied the accusations within the reports that she was assaulted by him in a press conference that featured the two. Cox would never serve a suspension.
Ozuna Case Must Be Taken Seriously: MLB’s Current Stance Isn’t Enough
Now, MLB has gotten somewhat better in how they are cracking down on these cases, with what they have done in a recent response to Sam Dyson‘s actions. The former Twins pitcher was suspended for the entire 2021 season due to his culpability determined by MLB in a case involving a pattern of domestic violence towards his girlfriend at the time and her pet cat as well.
But it’s still not enough. Dyson shouldn’t be allowed back in the league again. Nor should the others guilty of such crimes. Plain and simple. When you learn about the relentless patterns, the disturbing intent, the cuts, bruises, the blood, and the mental anguish caused by these abusers, it should tell you whether they’ve lost their privilege or not.
If you’re a man, let alone a physically superior professional athlete, and you have a lapse of judgment serious enough to put your hands on a female, you’ve got significant underlying problems in need of extensive treatment. A suspension is not the most ideal solution to rectifying someone’s underlying violent tendencies if they’re triggered enough to react in a way that leaves someone bloody and bruised. A suspension only guarantees punishment, but not rehabilitation.
Regarding second chances on the field, the production they bring shouldn’t factor into that at all whether someone deserves another one. That should go out the window, no matter what the player’s status is when they are culpable in crimes like these. Secondly, those additional opportunities should come from those who aren’t committing atrocious acts of violence, let alone repeatedly. We’re talking about grown men here, expected to act like such, given a privilege to be playing a sport for their livelihood that earns them anywhere from a six to eight-figure salary per year. And that privilege should be revoked for those engaging in behavior that is dangerously harming someone physically or mentally.
Ozuna Case Must Be Taken Seriously: The Appropriate Response For Ozuna’s Case
If these details are true about Ozuna, Commissioner Manfred should unconditionally ban him from reentering the league, never to return whatsoever. He has the power to levy any punishment he wants, seeing as how there is no minimum or maximum length of punishment under MLB’s domestic violence policy. Considering the fact that physical violence may have been committed upon a woman and in such a disturbing nature furthermore, it’s the most appropriate thing to do if true.
I know there’s still a potential stipulation that Ozuna must be paid the remaining money on his contract, upon returning from suspension, if he is suspended. The Domestic Violence policy should have contract voids on the list of potential punishments for those guilty but ridiculously, they don’t. However the money shouldn’t matter, nor should the talent. The team and league should bite the bullet on the money if that’s what it would take to rid themselves of those who commit domestic violence.
All that should matter in these cases are safety, security, and accountability and the way MLB and the Braves can ensure to do their part in that is by preventing those guilty of domestic violence back into the league. If Ozuna is determined to be guilty of domestic violence, he should mark the change in how seriously the MLB treats the issue. That is how you initiate a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of egregious behavior. Zero-tolerance means zero-caveats.
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