Professional athletes often make the news for interviews, press conferences, and instant replay. Unfortunately, they also often make the news for non-sports related conduct, specifically regarding incidences of domestic violence.
Former Minnesota Twin Baseball Player Chuck Knoblauch played professional baseball from 1991 to 2002 and even earned AL Rookie of the Year Honors in 1991. Twelve years after a successful career, The Twins planned to induct Knoblauch into its Hall of Fame until news broke of a recent arrest. According to KHOU in Houston, Knoblauch was arrested for allegedly hitting Cheri, his ex-wife. Knoblauch allegedly stormed into his child’s room where his wife had been sleeping, angry because she slept in the child’s room instead of their's that night, and began to smash her head against the wall. Apparently this was not Knoblauch’s first assault charge. In 2010, Knoblauch hit his other ex-wife, Stacy Stelmach, and received a year's probation.
The induction ceremony was scheduled for August 23, but when his recent arrest hit the news, the Twins cancelled the ceremony. Dave St. Peter, Twins Team President, stated he has no plans to induct Knoblauch into the Twins Hall of Fame as of now, or possibly ever. St. Peter said, "At the end of the day, there's a lot of focus on on-field pieces, but to me the off-field elements are equally important relative to a franchise, its brand, and the reality that our players and former players are role models”.
I think St. Peter made the right decision to not go through with the ceremony. His decision lets every player know that while on field performance matters, how you conduct yourself off the field matters as well. Being inducted into any Hall of Fame is a special privilege that does not come around for everyone. Additionally, it sends a message to fans that domestic violence is always unacceptable, regardless of an athlete's on-field performance.
Sadly, Knoblauch isn’t the only sports figure to make it in the news lately for domestic violence charges. In February, Ray Rice was arrested for domestic violence, and as a result, he has been suspended for the first two games of the regular season under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. (For more information on Ray Rice and commentary on this decision, read our recent blog post.)
Following the news of Ray Rice’s two game suspension for allegedly hitting his wife, Stephen A. Smith, a co-host of ESPN’s show, “First Take”, commented on the “real, real issue” of domestic violence, but not without assigning blame to survivors of domestic violence situations. Smith stated that while domestic violence is wrong, women also shouldn’t “do anything to provoke wrong actions”.
Outraged viewers and co-workers prompted the ESPN host to make an extended apology via twitter:
“My series of tweets a short time ago is not an adequate way to capture my thoughts so I am using a single tweet via Twitlonger to more appropriately and effectively clarify my remarks from earlier today about the Ray Rice situation. I completely recognize the sensitivity of the issues and the confusion and disgust that my comments caused. First off, as I said earlier and I want to reiterate strongly, it is never OK to put your hands on a women . Ever. I understand why that important point was lost in my other comments, which did not come out as I intended. I want to state very clearly. I do NOT believe a woman provokes the horrible domestic abuses that are sadly such a major problem in our society. I wasn’t trying to say that or even imply it when I was discussing my own personal upbringing and the important role the women in my family have played in my life. I understand why my comments could be taken another way. I should have done a better job articulating my thoughts and I sincerely apologize.”
His apology would have been MUCH more believable if he hadn't made these types of comments before.
In 2012, NFL Miami Dolphins wide-receiver Chad Johnson was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for head-butting his wife. After this incident, Stephen A. Smith defended Chad Johnson on the grounds of his previously spotless record. Smith asked viewers to take a look into the wife's life, same as they were doing with Chad, as he implied she could have provoked her husband.
Had St. Peter shared Smith’s point of view regarding domestic violence, Knoblauch could have been inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame, a privilege he does not deserve. And while Knoblauch apologized for his actions, neither Knoblauch’s nor Smith’s apology was credible. Even if these players believed they were provoked by their wives, just as Smith suggests, what happened to using your words? Would Smith have argued that Knoblauch was right in beating his wife because she “provoked” him by sleeping in her child’s room? Of course Stephen A. Smith won’t continue to argue that point because of the backlash he continues to receive. On July 28, Smith once again apologized on his show on ESPN, whether his apology is believable is up for the public to decide. Regardless of Smith’s beliefs, his initial statements about how women “provoke” domestic violence are wrong.
Yours in Advocacy,
Lana and Joe