It has been a bruising two weeks for the girlfriends of a few high-profile athletes.
On Monday Indiana Pacers rookie
Four days earlier, Mets closer
The publicity around the Rodriguez arrest overshadowed another domestic violence incident that occurred the same day and involved former Carolina Panthers linebacker
It's pretty sobering to visualize a big muscular athlete knocking down a woman or pummeling a grandfather. Against the sheer violence involved in each of these cases, it's easy to overlook the fact that each of these incidents played out in front of plenty of witnesses. Typically, domestic violence is the kind of crime that goes on behind closed doors, where bullies carry out threats and violence without fear of being seen or caught.
But athletes are less prone to fear consequences, especially when it comes to their off-the-field behavior. Fields confronted his ex-girlfriend outside a child care facility at 5 o'clock on a Monday afternoon. Rodriguez couldn't have picked a more public place to berate his girlfriend and strike her father than at a ballpark, never mind the fact that there were security guards on hand.
Most of us would consider this behavior pretty brazen. Yet athletes who run afoul of the law are used to getting out of jams. Look at Stephenson. While starring at Abraham Lincoln High in Coney Island Stephenson and a teammate were arrested in October 2008 for allegedly sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl inside the school. At the time, Stephenson was being recruited by schools like North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, USC and many others. He was on his way to becoming the all-time leading scorer in New York state history and leading his team to four consecutive New York City championships. He'd become such a big phenomenon that a courtside announcer had nicknamed him "Born Ready" and a reality web series about him was being planned under the same name.
All of that was jeopardized by the felony sexual assault case pending against him. But here's where it pays for an abuser to be an athlete. After Stephenson pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, the University of Cincinnati offered him a scholarship. He became the Big East's Rookie of the Year in 2010 and was selected drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the second round of June's NBA Draft. It was as if the incident at his high school didn't matter.
But these matters often come back to bite teams that sign players with a rap sheet. Now Pacers GM
The only person who needs a clear message is Stephenson. He may have been born ready to play hoops, but the game is doing him no favors by enabling him to keep skirting responsibility for his actions. Until his case is resolved, the last place he should be is in an NBA uniform.
The case against Rodriguez is a little different. The Mets signed him to a three-year, $37 million contract. The team is reportedly looking into whether they can
Earlier this year, NBA Commissioner David Stern came down hard on Washington Wizard teammates
The length of the suspensions raised a lot of eyebrows. But these players had brought guns into the workplace. Moreover, Stern was reacting to the fact that there are simply too many pro players getting arrested on gun charges these days.
Domestic violence is an equally pervasive problem. Yet teams and the leagues seem afraid to tackle it with the same degree of seriousness. During the offseason, Miami Dolphins lineman
The police report states: "Merling, knowing that
Merling, who has pleaded not guilty, is 6-foot-5 and weighs more than 300 pounds. He was jailed and charged with aggravated battery on a pregnant woman. Still, Dolphins GM
I understand why the leagues are concerned about the number of players that carry guns. Wherever there's a gun there's a risk of danger. But the fist of pro athlete is also capable of being pretty lethal. If GMs aren't willing to suspend or dismiss players that abuse their wives or girlfriends, maybe it's time the leagues start cracking down. The situation has gotten beyond embarrassing.