Major League Baseball (MLB) and the players union announced an agreement on new policies for domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse, they announced on Friday.
The announcement says the policy will hold players accountable “through appropriate disciplinary measures,” take violations seriously, and provide resources to victims, families, and players while protecting players’ legal rights.
According to BuzzFeed, after an investigation into allegations of abuse or assault MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred can issue sanctions based on his own judgment, not dependent on whether the player is convicted or pleads guilty. There is no minimum or maximum penalty under the new policy. Players can choose to appeal the commissioner’s sanctions, which would bring the case before a three-person arbitration panel made up of an MLB representative, a union representative, and an independent arbitrator.
The new policy will also include mandatory education programs for all Majors and Minors and treatment and intervention for players involved in abuse or assault. Treatment plans will be laid out by a three-member panel of experts, which could include counseling sessions and limiting players’ interactions with their partners.
The announcement also said additional policies will be implemented to cover Minor League players and everyone employed by Major or Minor League clubs. The players association will also implement a domestic abuse policy for its staff.
Baseball has had fewer high-profile domestic violence and sexual assault incidents than other professional sports, such as football. But numerous major league players have been accused or charged with domestic violence, yet in the last 25 years none of them have been punished by the league or their teams, drawing criticism for a lax approach. The MLB became focused on these issues, however, after the footage of NFL player Ray Rice knocking his fiance unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator became widely released.
Rather than reacting to a crisis, however, the MLB was able to take its time addressing the issue and do it “in a way that is authentic, would be lasting and make sense,” as Dan Halem, chief labor officer for Major League Baseball, told ThinkProgress in April. It’s been working with the union and a domestic violence organization to craft a multi-year plan to change its culture around these issues.
Its new policy, with the power given to the commissioner to issue sanctions without any floor or ceiling, stands in contrast to the one the NFL adopted last year. That policy included standard punishments for players who are involved in domestic violence or sexual assault: six games for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second. But it was vague about when players will be subject to suspension, and sources said at the time that it will only happen after an adjudication of a case such as a conviction or plea agreement. The NFL commissioner also has unilateral authority over discipline, unlike the three-person arbitration panel in the MLB’s policy, which has become a point of contention for players and their union.