With the holiday season upon us and the New Year almost in our grasp, it is a time of reflection. Some gather with their loved ones, exchanging gifts and pleasantries. Others travel in order to broaden their perspective or celebrate/mourn in solitude. The world of professional sports has chosen to ring in the holidays by reinstating a trio of alleged abusers in the three major sports leagues: the NFL, MLB, and NBA.
First came Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns’ star quarterback. Watson, 27, has been accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women stemming from a series of alleged predatory encounters during sports therapy massage sessions. Despite the disturbing allegations, the Browns chose to a 5-year, $230 million contract. And, after serving a measly 11-game suspension by the NFL, with its compliance officer determining he “used his status as an NFL player as a pretext to engage in a premeditated pattern of predatory behavior toward multiple women,” and reaching settlements with 23 of his 24 accusers, Watson was cleared to return to the field on Dec. 4, starting against the Houston Texans. The Browns even invited several of the women who settled with Watson to the game. (He played miserably.)
Lauren Baxley, the one woman who refused to settle with Watson, wrote about how disappointed she is in the NFL and its fans in a Rolling Stone op-ed.
“How can my life hold meaning when masses of people continue to support the return of a talented monster?” she wrote. “To say I have lost faith in humanity would be an understatement.”
Then it was Trevor Bauer’s turn. On Dec. 22, ESPN reported that an independent arbitrator had reduced an MLB suspension for violating its domestic violence policy from 324 games to 194 and that the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher would be reinstated. Despite serving only 144 games of his suspension, Bauer was given credit for the time he spent on the MLB’s restricted list.
“While we believe a longer suspension was warranted, MLB will abide by the neutral arbitrator’s decision, which upholds baseball’s longest-ever active player suspension for sexual assault or domestic violence,” MLB said in a statement. “We understand this process was difficult for the witnesses involved, and we thank them for their participation. Due to the collectively bargained confidentiality provisions of the joint program, we are unable to provide further details at this time.”
Bauer, a 31-year-old former Cy Young winner who’d been accused by many players of cheating, was first accused of sexual assault in June 2021, when a woman was granted a temporary domestic violence restraining order after accusing him of physically and sexually assaulting her twice in April of that year. (Bauer has denied the allegations and sued the woman for defamation.) During the MLB investigation, it was revealed that two other women had sought protection against Bauer for domestic abuse (Bauer denied these as well). The LA District Attorney declined to pursue charges against Bauer earlier this year, and the Dodgers have until Jan. 6 to decide whether to retain or release him.
If all that wasn’t enough, on Dec. 23, two days before Christmas, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets were “gathering traction in talks on a new deal” with forward Miles Bridges, and that “optimism exists that an agreement could come in the relative near future.”
Bridges, 24, was arrested on domestic violence charges in June. Days later, his wife Mychelle Johnson came forward on Instagram to detail how the 6’7” basketball star allegedly assaulted her in front of their two young children and that this latest incident was part of a pattern of abuse, I reported for The Daily Beast. She posted photos of her body bloodied and covered in bruises.
“I hate that it has come to this, but I can’t be silent anymore. I’ve allowed someone to destroy my home, abuse me in every way possible and traumatize our kids for life,” Johnson wrote on Instagram. “I have nothing to prove to the world, but I won’t allow anyone who could do something so horrible to have no remorse and paint a picture of something I’m not. I won’t allow the people around him to continue to silence me and continue to lie to protect this person. It’s unethical, it’s immoral, it’s truly SICK. It hurts my heart because I’ve always had hope, and so much love and as scary as this is for me to do it’s time I stand up for myself.”
She continued: “I won’t be silent to protect others anymore because I value myself and my kids more than anyones ‘image’.… a fracture nose, wrist, torn eardrum, torn muscles in my neck from being choked until i went to sleep and a severe concussion. I don’t need sympathy, I just don’t want this happening to anyone else, I just want this person to get help, my kids deserve better. That’s all i want. It hurts, everything hurts, this situation hurts, most importantly I’m scared and hurting for my kids who were witness to everything. Please respect my families privacy and stop with the disgusting rumors and allegations.”
Bridges pleaded no contest to one charge of felony domestic violence in November but was only sentenced to three years probation and no jail time thanks to a deal with prosecutors. He still faces a possible suspension from the NBA.