If you pay any attention to baseball news, by now you’ve heard that closer Aroldis Chapman was traded from the Yankees to the Cubs, in exchange for four Cubs players including one of their top prospects. You probably know that the Nationals were in the mix as well, and that they are disappointed they didn’t get him. And you almost definitely know about Chapman’s 30-game suspension for an incident of domestic violence in which he choked his girlfriend, shoved her up against a wall, and fired eight shots into the wall of his garage. He admitted to firing the shots, but has largely downplayed the incident. For Nats fans who care about what their players do off the field, the news that we didn’t get him came as a relief. He’s going to Chicago, he won’t be on our team, great, move on, that’s it.
Nats fans, that’s not it.
For one thing, the Nats wanted him. Dusty Baker has worked with him in the past in Cincinnati, and in fact made some pretty questionable comments defending him back in December when the news about the domestic violence case first broke. Even now that Chapman has admitted to at least some of the incident, including the gunshots, the Nats still went after him this month. The reason we don’t have to see Chapman wearing the Curly W tomorrow has nothing to do with his actions; it ultimately came down to the fact that the asking price was too high. Back in December, the Dodgers passed on him after getting close to a deal because they didn’t want to be associated with the domestic violence case. The Nats, and many other teams, clearly had no such qualms. From the team’s perspective, we didn’t dodge a bullet here - we missed out.
Many fans are claiming that since Chapman has served his suspension, the incident should no longer be an issue. Even his new manager doesn’t seem to be all that concerned. But simply serving a suspension does not erase the fact that Chapman clearly has problems with violence. The new MLB policy also includes treatment and intervention for players who have committed acts of domestic violence. However, Chapman’s continuing lack of demonstrated contrition shows that he has not yet reached a point where he understands why his actions were so wrong. Until he shows he has reached that point, fans and clubs have every reason to remain concerned about how he may act in the future - and in fact how he may be acting now behind closed doors, given the high rates of repeat offenses in domestic violence cases.
But he’s playing for the Cubs now, so why do we care?
Because this is a problem that exists all across baseball, and throughout professional sports. José Reyes is playing for the Mets in our own NL East. He was given a hero’s welcome by the team and by many fans and reporters after the Mets obtained him at a discount following his suspension for grabbing his wife by the throat and shoving her into a glass door. Oh, but those are just Mets fans, right? They’re all jerks anyway. Nats fans would never act like that… Or would we? We want to win a World Series title as much as anybody. It’s amazing what people will forgive in the name of winning a game.
So what can we do? He’s not on our team. We don’t work for Major League Baseball. Where do we start? A few basic suggestions:
-Speak out. Many reporters and other sports-related personalities are downplaying the issue. Use social media, article comments, and other methods of feedback to respectfully but firmly let them know that what they’re doing is unacceptable.
-Do the same with your friends. Domestic violence as an issue is handled poorly by many otherwise well-meaning people (see above re: the quotes from Dusty). It may be easier to let comments slide. But silence is compliance. Whenever you can, try to start a conversation about it instead. You might not change everyone’s mind, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change anyone’s.
-If you are able, consider donating to your local domestic violence-related charities. Here are some ideas for national organizations that accept donations. Some of them are looking for objects other than money, such as used cell phones.
-Elevate the voices of survivors of domestic violence, as well as those sports reporters who are writing about the issue constructively (some of whom are domestic violence survivors themselves). Players such as Josh Donaldson who grew up with the effects of domestic violence and have spoken about their experiences are crucial here as well.
-Don’t stop talking about it just because Chapman won’t be wearing a Nats uniform any time soon. It’s tempting to let it go - out of sight, out of mind, right? Don’t. We can do better than that. We need to do better than that.
If you have feedback or questions, please contact us through the ask box, on Twitter, or via email. This is a sensitive issue, so we welcome commentary and criticism that is presented respectfully. Deliberately inflammatory comments will be ignored. This was originally posted at the Resting Pitchface Tumblr.