Greg Oden allegedly had a domestic assault situation last August. James Johnson was arrested on a domestic abuse charge in June and in July signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Raptors (charges against him were dropped). Former Thunder player DeAndre Liggins had an ugly domestic abuse case filed against him (he is now out of the league as well). Three other NBA players and one assistant coach had domestic abuse charges against them dropped.
That is all within the past 12 months.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver shouldn’t have needed a public scandal in another sport to make him understand that domestic violence was a serious issue and one that impacts the NBA directly. This is something the league should have taken more seriously long ago.
But the public relations disaster around the NFL and the Ray Rice case certainly caught the Commissioner’s attention. Silver spoke on Monday to announce a genuinely good New York City based NBA Cares project tied into the All-Star Game there next February (repairing a Staten Island court damage by hurricane Sandy), but when the media got to talk to him they had more serious questions and domestic violence is on that list. Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com was there.
Again, Silver doesn’t need the NFL, he can look at his own crime blotter and see the problem. There can be a culture of entitlement and being “above it all” that comes with the confidence needed to become a professional athlete, something as true for guys coming into the NBA as it is in the NFL. A discussion of domestic violence during the rookie training program is not enough.
Changes need to be made. Silver and the league needs to be more proactive than the NFL and its commissioner have been (although that’s a low bar to clear).
The NBA’s long-standing policy on all arrests and legal matters has been to let the judicial system play out then base any punishment off that outcome. Will that work anymore? (It certainly would not have been good for the NFL in the Adrian Peterson situation.) The CBA does give the NBA wide latitude if it wants on these cases. The NBA needs to be more proactive here — it can’t eliminate the situations but it needs to deal better with the ones it has. The league took no action on the cases already mentioned in this post (some charges were against players out of the league, others the charges were dropped). The problem is with the cases that were dropped (we don’t know what really happened in those situations), or in future similar situations, a player suspended without pay after an incident who then sees the charges dropped will have grounds to challenge the league. However, we also know that a lot of clear cases of abuse see the charges dropped for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately, Silver will be put to the test on this sometime sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see how he and the league (and teams) respond, especially if this is a name player and not just an end-of-bench guy, because there will be a much brighter spotlight on them now. Sitting back and ignoring the situation is no longer an option.