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MLB can do what NFL didn’t with hard stance against domestic violence

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred (left) and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. (AP Photos)

In the fall of 2015, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell looked like an idiot.

He suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games for the beat down Rice gave his then-finance (now wife) in an elevator that was caught on camera.

After receiving backlash for the decision, Goodell flipped the script and came out swinging against domestic violence. He made an impassioned speech and appealed to the American public to support his new domestic violence policy which included indefinite suspensions.

By the way, have you heard anything about the NFL’s stance on domestic violence since then? Think Johnny Manziel and the response, or lack thereof, from the league.

Now, Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, is facing a similar situation.

Will he learn from the colossal mistakes Goodell made and take a no-nonsense, hard line approach, or will he fail and leave us all shaking our heads?

Spring training started on Tuesday with the reporting of the position players. But thanks to Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman, the league is dealing with significant domestic violence issues that will put its policy, and Manfred, to the test.

The rest of the Rockies started arriving at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale last week, but Reyes will not be reporting anytime soon.

In November, Reyes pleaded not guilty to assaulting his wife. His trial is scheduled for April 4.

Assuming that the trial actually begins on time — which is a big assumption — Reyes will not be donning a Rockies uniform at the start of the regular season. He has been placed on paid leave per MLB policy.

Granted, he could always enter a plea agreement or, more likely, the trial will be continued to a later date. However, the longer the trial is pushed back, the more time the Rockies are without their $22 million shortstop.

The league said it would wait for the court’s decision and its own investigation before Manfred will make a decision on disciplining Reyes.

In August, the MLB instituted its Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy, partially in reaction to problems in the NFL.

It is astonishingly similar to that specified in the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NFL. The MLB policy gives almost unfettered disciplinary discretion to Manfred.

I would think that the players’ association and MLB would learn from the NFL debacles — think Deflategate — and not give absolute power (though MLB does have an independent arbitration board) to the commissioner, but apparently not.

Policies can get muddled with legalese so let me break MLB’s down:

  • Manfred HAS to investigate ALL allegations of domestic violence
  • The player HAS to cooperate (this brings up Fifth Amendment self-incrimination concerns)
  • Manfred MAY put a player on administrative paid leave for seven days

After those seven days, Manfred can:

  • discipline the player;
  • reinstate the player and defer discipline until after the criminal case is resolved; or
  • suspend the player with pay until legal proceedings are over.

Manfred also gets to decided whether or not precedent matters.

So, to put it bluntly, it appears the Manfred can do what he wants regardless of what he or anyone has done before. I believe unfettered discretion is a dangerous thing, but I do like the fact that he is waiting for the criminal case to be resolved.

Until Manfred makes his final decision on Reyes (and the others), all eyes will be on him to see if he plays ball or takes the easy way out.

There is a policy in place and Manfred needs to do what Goodell didn’t: Step up and make the hard call from the beginning.  If you say there are no exceptions, no excuses, you better mean it.

If Manfred wants to say MLB is taking a hard-line stance and domestic violence is unacceptable, then prove it.

Domestic violence by professional athletes will never stop, but THIS commissioner can learn from the mistakes of the other.

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