With high-ranking officials within sports leagues making abhorrent decisions about their personnel and those decisions’ implicit treatment of women, the NBA has a rare second chance to be a beacon of hope for the next generation.
Content warning: This article discusses domestic violence and child abuse
Yet again, we have to delve into the depths of sports leagues’ undeniable connection to society and social justice, this time for a different but equally nefarious situation.
Miles Bridges, starting small forward for the Charlotte Hornets, has been accused of felony domestic violence and child abuse. His partner at the time shared some now deleted images of gruesome injuries she had sustained after a domestic altercation. Though refusing to name Bridges in the post, she implied his responsibility. The former couple have two children who were allegedly in the room when the altercation happened.
I will preface by saying how sad, disappointing and anger-inducing it is to read such a story as it often feels like regularly scheduled programming with athletes from major sports leagues.
I can only begin to imagine how others reading this news feel.
There has been no announcement made by the NBA, as it most likely waits for more information to be released about the matter, probably hoping to not be forced into an announcement as the season rapidly approaches.
In Cleveland, just a short flight away from Charlotte, the trial of the Cleveland Browns’ Deshaun Watson has come to an underwhelming close.
Watson, a star quarterback in the National Football League, was accused of coercive and lewd behaviour during massage appointments by 24 women. He has settled in civil court with 23 of the 24. You can read more about the harrowing Watson allegations here.
The NFL has set a precedent of underwhelming conclusions, banning assaulters in the past for anywhere from a mere two to six-game suspensions. Since facing significant social backlash for consistently poor punishments, the league outsourced this case to an external judge, Sue L. Robinson.
However, poor precedents coupled with the fact that the Robinson only looked at the cases of four of the 24 women informed the former district judge to suggest a disenchanting six-game suspension for Watson.
Despite Robinson noting a “lack of remorse” and a “pattern of conduct more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL”, precedent is key in many legal proceedings and therefore played a major role in the judge’s decision.
Fortunately for the NFL, because Watson’s suspension is an internal decision, not a legal one, they have the right to implement their own suspension, only relying on the judge’s verdict as a suggestion.
Reports had been flying around about a rumoured one-year ban for Watson, the biggest ban in NFL history and a punishment that more accurately ‘fits the crime’, if it even does that at all.
With that in mind, does anybody want to make a guess as to what decision the “forward-facing” NFL made?
A $5 million fine tied to an 11-game suspension, which frees Watson right in time to face his old team, the Houston Texans, just weeks away from the playoffs.
I wonder what the ratings and ticket sales on a game like that could be… Expecting such an occurrence, the Cleveland Browns traded for Watson and proceeded to give him a fully guaranteed $230 million contract, the most guaranteed money in NFL history. The worst part? The first year of the deal is only worth $1 million, so Watson stands to lose only roughly $600,000 of his $230,000,000 to unpaid suspension: that works out to 0.26 percent of his deal.
Press releases, posturing and pandering only get you so far when you make decisions like the NFL and its affiliates continue to.
The NBA cannot follow in the footsteps of its big brother, not again.
At what point will we stop siding with the powerful and maybe try to listen to those that are so commonly mistreated and abused.
I appreciate that innocent until proven otherwise is a pillar of the US legal system, but the implications that this decision has on the future of the NBA is clear.
The league cannot sit idly by and allow this situation to sweep over them, they must make a firm and fierce stance.
Sexual and domestic assault, in any form, are not okay.
Bridges still has his roughly $7.9 million qualifying offer on the table from Charlotte, a far cry from the $100 million he was all-but-due to be offered, but still a lot more than your average person.
The league has failed to put its foot down several times before, but with a case this major it has been gifted with an opportunity to redeem itself as the progressive league that it has not-so-rightfully been crowned as.
Myself and millions elsewhere are watching, hoping not to be disheartened again as another major sports league fails to do the right thing.