Major League Baseball announced a sweeping violence against women and children policy, which provides assistance for victims and families, as well as therapeutic programs for players – read, not physical therapy, but actual psychological and emotional therapy to address issues and rehabilitate the player.
On the other side, a video from the NFL Rookie symposium went viral. The video featured Cris Carter, NFL Hall of Famer and star of NOMORE commercials, telling rookies to find a “fall guy” in case they get in trouble with the law. “Because all you guys aren’t going to do the right stuff. I need to teach you how to get around all of this stuff, too.”
So, that’s the message from the rookie symposium that no one was able to write about. Dear 21 or 22-year-old rookies with large amounts of wealth, power and status: It’s about the image. You can’t avoid being a criminal, but you can avoid taking responsibility. And here’s my man, Warren Sapp to back me up on this one. We know you’ve heard from Pacman Jones and other NFL players who have been in trouble with the law, so let’s reinforce the game plan. It's not a message that needs to be sent and the NFL would have done well to not silence the reporters and quietly talk to Carter, but publicly say the message was not appropriate and outline how the NFL will handle this topic and the culture in which it flourishes.
Now, this is not much different than the NFL Players Association, or union, who also helped players in a media “gotcha” session in which a scenario was given about their “girlfriend, Boo-Boo” filing a domestic violence charge. It looks like it was a more humorous scenario. The NFLPA reinforced in unison with the players that they are a “family” or “business” to “make money.”
Now let's look at the MLB. This is the sport of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, culture change agents. The MLB and the MLBPA put out a joint policy that considers victims, families and players when it comes to domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. The first sentence states that they, together, “take an absolute stand” against it. That's right. A united front against violence from the player and organization side.
The policy outlines immediate investigation and paid administrative leave option pending an accusation. Players’ rights are covered in the policy, but so is family outreach and victim assistance which provides intervention and help for “affected persons.”
Further, and this part is good, a treatment board referred to as the “Joint Policy Board” will be established to evaluate and oversee treatment for players who have been subject to action or for players who voluntarily request it. A player must submit to an evaluation when notified of an investigation of abuse. In fact, the “Treatment and Intervention” heading is the most detailed and through of the policy. This sends a message that they care about the development of the player, the growth of the player and recognizes that the family of the player is important to the organization.
Resources are provided for players, families and even victims in the policy, to include confidential family counseling, resources and referral information. Community outreach is included in the policy which provides for awareness days, Public Service Announcements, donations to charities, informational fairs, and the like. Of course, ongoing training and education for players is covered under this heading as well.
A very structured disciplinary policy is outlined which also allows discipline for failure to comply with a treatment plan. This policy also allows a baseball club to issue discipline of a player, at the authority of the MLB Commissioner’s office. It also gives an investigative timeframe once there has been a notification of a report or situation. They commissioner's office must work quickly and thoroughly to investigate the situation because there are lives and reputations in the balance.
This policy then states that MLB, its affiliated businesses, every Club and players association shall institute policies in their front office and among their staff that are comparable to what has been issued for the players. This means that the regular employees of a baseball team will also take this matter seriously and undergo training. I've done the trainings, so I know it is happening.
The differences are vast. What it appears to be is that one league has considered the health, well-being and development of its players and their families. This is a policy rooted in understanding that there are victims of behavior that also need to be addressed and not maligned as an adversary. This policy reflects care and concern for things greater than baseball.
On the other side of this weekend’s news, we saw the difference between a public image and a private reality. We witnessed the messages sent behind closed doors - in direct conflict with the messages sent in front of a camera, for public consumption. Those messages behind the closed doors are what resonate with players. Those messages are from trusted sources who have played “the game” and come out on the other side.
So here, clear as day, we see two very different responses to violence; two different messages; two different organizations. Which side will be more effective in stopping the violence?