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MLB needs to set an example and punish domestic abusers

It is time for Major League Baseball to step up to the plate.

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

On December 7, reports surfaced that the Dodgers had acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in exchange for prospects. The story grew stranger as the day went on, however, as official word of the trade was never broken, leading many to assume a three-team deal. It became clear as to the holdup late Monday evening when reports of domestic violence accusations surrounding the lefty had surfaced.

The alleged incident was said to have occurred October 30 (although the Reds officials appeared to have been caught off-guard by the news). According to the police report:

the woman, said to be Chapman's girlfriend (or perhaps ex-girlfriend) and mother of his child, was "pushed against the wall and fell against the floor... Chapman had choked her by placing his hands around her neck... That was when her brother had separated them. After they were separated, she ran outside... to her neighbors' residence and hid in the bushes. While she was hiding, she heard one gunshot."

Media outlets are reporting that Chapman also retrieved a gun from his car and fired eight shots in the garage, hitting the concrete wall and a window. No charges were filed at the time due to a reported "lack of evidence and witness cooperation".

The news comes in the wake of other reports of domestic violence committed by Major League Baseball players: Jose Reyes, who was arrested October 31 after an argument with his wife became physical, and Yasiel Puig, who allegedly sparked a brawl and pushed his sister in a Miami nightclub November 25. The league is currently investigating both cases.

Major League Baseball is not the only organization facing this issue that disturbingly seems to be on the rise, or at least getting more attention. Most notably, the National Football League has come under fire due to the organization's failures at adequately handling these types of cases. Perhaps the most famous instance is Ray Rice, who beat his then-fiance in an elevator until she lost consciousness. For that offense, Rice received a mere two-game suspension (less than the four-game suspension Rams wide-receiver Stedman Bailey received for testing positive for marijuana) until video of the incident was released to the public. The outcry prompted the NFL to take more severe action, but it was way too late. The league's position of apathy and disinterest in punishing players for these offenses had already become firmly cemented.

One needs not look further than Greg Hardy to see this harrowing truth. With the opportunity to redeem itself for the errors made in the Rice incident, the NFL fell on its face yet again, allowing a man that threw his girlfriend around his apartment, including onto a pile of guns, and left bruises on her entire body to walk away virtually unpunished with a ten-game suspension later reduced to four-games due to the NFL's previously lax policies. The National Football League's indifference lasted way too long, giving them little credibility.

The NFL, while the most notable as of late, is not alone in its negligence. The National Hockey League has also had a run of similar issues. When the investigation against LA Kings defensemen Slava Voynov began, the Kings did nothing (though, to its credit, the NHL suspended Voynov from hockey activities) until Voynov injured his Achilles in a non-hockey related activity. Vovynov would most likely still be playing for the Kings had he not agreed to "self-deport" back to Russia.

Another disturbing example of an NHL team looking the other way is displayed in how the Chicago Blackhawks handled Patrick Kane. Kane has recently set the Blackhawks point streak record by earning a point in twenty-two straight games. In the summer and into the fall, he was being investigated for rape. The investigation eventually lost momentum in November as the accuser stopped cooperating, which is sadly unsurprising due to the amount of stress victims of rape are put under, not to mention the publicity with such a high-profile case. That Kane was allowed to play while being investigated for such a heinous crime is a massive organizational failing.

Major League Baseball is not immune to these failings either. Most baseball fans know the story of Josh Lueke, the man who raped a woman, pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with violence, was sentenced to forty-two days in jail, which amounted to time-served, and then went on to pitch for the Rays for $500,000. Not only was Lueke not punished by Major League Baseball, but the Rays profited, paying a reduced amount for a player due to his "off field issues", Lueke profited, and neither Major League Baseball nor the players' union did anything to address the issue at that time.

Possibly in recognition of its own problems, or in an effort to avoid the disasters other sports leagues had created, Major League Baseball drafted a new domestic violence policy. Under this new policy, the commissioner will be responsible for determining the length and severity of the punishment, with no minimum or maximum number of games specifically set by the agreement. The policy is a good first step. With these recent accusations coming to light, new commissioner Rob Manfred will be put to the test, a test he cannot afford to fail if he intends to show concern for this serious issue.

The sad fact of the matter is that the National Football League has failed; the National Hockey League has failed; Major League Baseball has failed when it comes to punishing domestic abusers and rapists. Major League Baseball does not have the power to redeem the other major sports organizations, but it does have the power to redeem itself and set a hard precedent not only for future transgressions committed by Major Leaguers, but maybe serve as an example to the other professional sports organizations as well. If the evidence against Chapman, Reyes, or Puig is anything like the evidence against Rice, Hardy, Kane, or Lueke, Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball cannot turn a blind eye to it. With the new policies, Major League Baseball must take a stand against domestic violence and rape. Major League Baseball has the power to punish, leaving no excuses to remain weak. It must make clear that domestic violence and rape will not be tolerated.

Because if it does not now, then who will?