Presumptive Guilt in Sports

One of the things that is supposed to separate the United States from such totalitarian regimes as Vladimir Putin's Russia and Red China is that here a person is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Tell that to Trevor Bauer of the Dodgers.

Bauer has been suspended for 324 games — the equivalent of two entire seasons — because he has been accused, but not convicted, in connection with three alleged domestic violence incidents, one of which was found to be so frivolous that a judge denied a request for a restraining order against Bauer by the "victim."

And where are the unions in all of this?

Neither the Major League Baseball Players Association nor the National Football League Players Association have ever demanded to have an "innocent until proven guilty" clause included in any collective bargaining agreement with the respective owners of those two sports.

MLB and the NFL (and the NBA and NHL) are sports leagues — not law-enforcement agencies.

And besides the blatant violation of due process, a policy of presumptive guilt opens up the opportunity for gamblers and other unsavory characters to in effect fix games. All they would have to do is pay some "victim" to come forward and falsely accuse some prominent player of domestic violence or some other crime, and then send it in so to speak against the team whose player was arbitrarily suspended.

Bauer plans to appeal the two-year ban, thus becoming the first baseball player ever to appeal a domestic violence-related suspension. Suffice it to say that his prospects for winning said appeal are not very bright.

Of course we have seen this proverbial movie before, many times, in the NFL: In 2017, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games (after the suspension was overturned three times in federal court and reinstated three times, Elliott agreed to serve the suspension — primarily because he had suffered a hamstring injury). As a result, he neglected to rush for 1,000 yards that season (with 983 yards in the 10 games in which he did play), one of only two years of his six-year NFL career when he didn't crack the millennium mark (Elliott rushed for 979 yards in 2020).

And oh, yes: Elliott was never even charged in the domestic violence case — let alone ever convicted.

Worse, in a way, is what almost happened to Tyreek Hill: accused of breaking his three-year-old son's arm by the child's mother, it was revealed that it was the mother herself who committed the assault because she suffers from a psychiatric disorder known as "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy." But since her confession came just in the nick of time — as training camp was about to open, in 2019 — Hill did not ended up not missing any games.

(In an interesting twist, the Chiefs drafted wide receiver Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 draft, fearing that Hill wouldn't be permitted to play. This move enabled Kansas City to make a blockbuster trade with Miami on March 23, netting the Chiefs a first-round pick, a second-round pick, two fourth-round picks, and a sixth-round pick for Hill, who the Chiefs had drafted in the fifth round in 2016).

Then there is the matter of former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy: On May 13, 2014, Hardy was arrested for assault and "communicating threats," whatever that means. Initially convicted and given a slap on the wrist, receiving no actual jail time (guess the case against him wasn't very strong?), Hardy appealed even that verdict, which was set aside after the "victim" failed to appear on February 9, 2015. Yet that didn't stop then-Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who was forced to sell the team in 2018 due to numerous allegations of sexual harassment (so who was he to judge?) from announcing, one day earlier, that Hardy would be cut once the new league year began the following month — and he was, only to be snapped up by Dallas within days of his release by Carolina.

But the NFL insisted on piling on, handing Hardy a 10-game suspension, later shortened to four games, despite the judge in his case having exonerated him and ordering his conviction expunged from his record.

Hardy lasted only one year with the Cowboys, mainly because he posted some unflattering messages on twitter directed at then-Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. (What did Hardy say — that Garrett was incompetent or something?).

Next stop for Hardy was mixed martial arts — eventually reaching the UFC, which chose not to renew his contract after his third consecutive loss (a typical fate for a fighter who does that), to Sergey Spivak, on March 5 of this year.

In addition to his rubbing Garrett the wrong way, Hardy was accused of "being a bad influence on the younger players on the team" — a highly dubious claim in light of the fact that Hardy is a registered Republican, and that Rashad Evans, who someday might be the United States ambassador to the United Nations, chose to take Hardy under his wing during Hardy's fight career, which for the moment at least is on hold since no other MMA promotion has yet signed him.

If there is anything "good" about Bauer's plight, it is that he is white — meaning that the Lords of Baseball cannot be accused of racism in how they have chosen to treat him.

Who knows? Maybe they're trying to promote "competitive balance" by depriving the team that is the overwhelming favorite to win this year's World Series of a member of their starting rotation.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site