This is a very, very good take:https://deadspin.com/melisa-reidy-russe ... 1829529289
Late Wednesday, a day after the Chicago Cubs had been eliminated from the playoffs, Major League Baseball announced that it was suspending Addison Russell for 40 games for “violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violent, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.” Russell will also be required to “participate in a confidential and comprehensive evaluation and treatment program.”
Russell issued a statement saying he is accepting MLB’s resolution because he decided it was best interest for his family “after gaining a full understanding of the situation.” More likely than not, both MLB and Russell are hoping that fall and winter prove to be enough time for fans to forget before baseball starts up again in the spring. Typically, this would be where the media narrative would end.
But then Russell’s ex-wife, Melisa Reidy-Russell, spoke out again. She participated in two stories: a sit-down interview with WGN’s Lauren Magiera and an interview with the Athletic’s Katie Strang. Both pieces gave Reidy-Russell space to discuss the abuse she says she suffered, why she hid it from so many people for so long, why she told MLB she wouldn’t cooperate with its investigation, and why, more than a year later, she changed her mind and wrote her blog post, then spoke to MLB. For a moment, press coverage about domestic violence was about a woman who said she was abused, not the man either denying it or promising he would never do it again.
This happened because Reidy-Russell made it happen.
After reading and watching her interviews, I thought back to the coverage of Janay Rice when her husband, Ray, was trying to make a comeback after his domestic violence case. My former colleague Puja Patel rightly called out several stories for glossing over Janay Rice’s story, putting the focus on the damage done to her husband’s career while ignoring what any of it meant for his victim. That didn’t happen in this case. I doubt it’s because the baseball media is more enlightened than the football press, although seeing the latter’s failings gives the former an advantage. Instead, Reidy-Russell didn’t give them a choice. She told her story when she wanted to, first to MLB, then to the reporters she chose. She went from being in a powerless situation to having power over her own life and her own narrative.
I won’t be surprised if some among the baseball press or within MLB start to debate whether the Russell case was handled “right or wrong,” as if it were an umpire’s call to be re-evaluated over instant reply. Suspensions ultimately are about public relations, calibrated to officials’ best guess at many games will bring angry people down at least to lukewarm and back to buying tickets. The idea of assigning a number of baseball games on forms of human cruelty is always going to feel somewhere between arbitrary and disgusting. The stuff that matters—if Russell will learn and grow as a human being—is unknowable. He could go to 50 counseling sessions, or he could take the Aroldis Chapman treatment and only attend one. He could change his approach to the world, or he could not. In an ideal world, creating improvement plans for people wouldn’t be outsourced to sports leagues run by ruthless businessmen, but that is not the world we live in.