In February I wrote that I applauded the Chicago Cubs organization, not for standing by Addison Russell in the aftermath of his domestic violence, but for acknowledging that it happened on their watch, that they felt a responsibility to Russell and his family, and that they felt that the organization as a whole needed to take part in the process of rehabilitation.
My sentiments on the Cub’s organization’s statements have not changed, but as we approach the time when Russell’s suspension is due to be lifted, I and many others are asking, how do the Cubs handle Russell from here on out?
Addison Russell is eligible to return to the MLB this week, May 3rd in fact. On April 25th President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein told reporters that there are no guarantees for Russell. He is not assured of returning to the Cubs, he is certainly not assured of returning to his shortstop position, he is not assured that he’ll be accepted by his teammates nor by his former fans.
For once, I do not envy Theo’s position. I would not want to be the person making the decision if a man, once loved by fans and an attribute to the team, should come back after behaving in an indefensible way. I do however still applaud the Cubs efforts to help Russell during this time. It is difficult to see any person that you worked with, were in any type of relationship with, or were a fan of does something that instantly makes them a different person in your eyes.
Some people can compartmentalize the bad behavior of a film producer or ball player and still appreciate their work. The world of entertainment, be it film, television, or sports, has been changing in this regard. While the likes of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are still somewhat held in esteem in their fields, the likes of Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly are not. No matter how great a ball-player he is, nothing will change the facts of what Addison Russell did, his behavior was unacceptable. But I suppose the question now is, if a person is willing to acknowledge their wrong-doings (unlike Weinstein and Kelly who maintain their innocence) get treatment, and work on themselves…should we as a society see fit to give them a second chance? I don’t know.
I do know that the chance may very well come to Russell, and it is likely that the Cubs fanbase will have mixed feelings. I also know that the Cubs organization did the right thing. Lastly, I know that of the Big 4 sports leagues the MLB is ranked number one in their domestic violence policy by grandstandcentral.com, in fact only the NBA and the MLB have specific language in their collective bargaining agreements as to a join domestic violence policy between the players’ organizations and the leagues.
What comes next for Russell? For the Cubs? For future abusers? For their victims? No one has the answers to these questions. We can only hope, as fans, that better education is provided, more protections for victims are offered, and second chances only be given when they are truly deserved.