It’s not just the NFL.
In a recent issue, we discussed the NFL’s propensity for rewarding players despite egregious personal issues, referencing the ongoing Antonio Brown saga, Tyreek Hill, and the late Aaron Hernandez specifically.
And while the NFL has developed a culture of valuing the performance of players (and the resulting income) over basic human morality, they are not alone.
In Game 6 of MLB American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros closer, Roberto Osuna, blew a two-run lead to the New York Yankees in the top of the ninth inning.
Osuna was arrested on May 7, 2018 in Toronto, Canada, on suspicion of domestic violence while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Police reports are not publicly released in the province of Ontario, so the specifics of that night are unknown. However, the case was dropped after the alleged victim, the mother of Osuna’s son, declined to return to Canada to appear in court. Osuna accepted his only punishment without protest, receiving a 75-day suspension from the MLB for violating its domestic violence policy.
During that suspension, Osuna was traded to the Houston Astros, the then-defending World Series champions. This was odd, considering that the Astros have a “strict” zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. A year earlier, the team released prospect Danry Vázquez after Vázquez was shown on video beating his girlfriend following a minor-league game. Nonetheless, the Astros brought Osuna into the fold while he was actively under investigation. (The team said Osuna did not violate the policy because he was not on the team when the incident happened.) USA Today characterized the move as the Astros “waving goodbye to a chunk of their integrity.”
So it felt like cosmic justice when Osuna gave up a two-run homer to the Yankees’ DJ Lemahieu in the top of the ninth inning, tying the game at 6-all.
“Oh good, the domestic abuser blew it,” tweeted former MLB pitcher Brandon McCarthy. “Now who will the Yankees bring in? Oh.”
Stepping up to the mound to protect the Yankees’ season in a do-or-die game was closer Aroldis Chapman, who has also been investigated for domestic violence allegations in 2015. Reports in December of that year revealed that Chapman was under investigation for an October incident in Davies, Florida, where he allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired eight gunshots. The news derailed the Los Angeles Dodgers’ attempts to trade for Chapman, but three weeks later, Chapman was traded to the Yankees, who are infamous about regulating players’ appearances (no beards, no long hair). It would appear that the Yankees are okay with domestic violence allegations, though.
Cosmic justice struck once more as Chapman failed, giving up a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to Jose Altuve, propelling the Astros to the World Series and sending the Yankees packing.
As Barstool Sports writer Jared Carrabis put it, “It couldn’t have been a worse guy to blow it in the ninth: an abuser, a man who shot a gun at a woman blows it in the bottom of the ninth in Houston.”
When Barstool Sports has the moral high ground, it may be time to rethink your position.
Neither Osuna nor Chapman should be star closers in the MLB — any semblance of morality would suggest that they should not even be playing in the MLB. And yet, Chapman made $17.2 million this year, and Osuna will be pitching in baseball’s promised land, the World Series.
Baseball has dished out lifetime bans when it has deemed fit. All-time hits leader Pete Rose received a lifetime ban for betting on baseball. Benny Kauff was banned in 1920 after he was investigated for selling stolen cars in New York. Former Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella was permanently banned in 2017 for violating MLB rules about signing international prospects. One would presume that domestic violence is a more egregious act than any of these three.
But money and skill have absolved accountability. Both Osuna and Chapman are highly-skilled, big-name players on rich, successful teams. Justice applies differently when a player does not check those boxes.
Both Osuna and Chapman are highly-skilled, big-name players on rich, successful teams. Justice applies differently when a player does not check those boxes.
Much like the NFL, MLB must do a better job of promoting a responsible and moral culture. Professional athletes are major celebrities and often role models. But, yet again, a major sports league values money over morals.