National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
On July second, Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave. The fact it took until Friday for Bauer to be removed from his scheduled start on Sunday is an organizational failure by both Los Angeles and Major League Baseball. On June 30th, The Athletic published an article that detailed that a woman had received a restraining order against Bauer after saying that he had sexually assaulted her twice on separate occasions, as well as filing multiple graphic images of bodily harm she had received. This is not an isolated situation. Not to Bauer, not to the Dodgers, and not to MLB. All three are responsible for what happened, for perpetrating the violence as well for letting it happen under their watch. But also for not taking the steps to prevent this or any number of previous situations.
Trevor Bauer’s history with women is long and documented. In a profile with Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated, Bauer listed his three rules for dating.
‘“I have three rules,” he says. “One: no feelings. As soon as I sense you’re developing feelings, I’m going to cut it off, because I’m not interested in a relationship and I’m emotionally unavailable. Two: no social media posts about me while we’re together, because private life stays private. Three: I sleep with other people. I’m going to continue to sleep with other people. If you’re not O.K. with that, we won’t sleep together, and that’s perfectly fine. We can just be perfectly polite platonic friends.”’
Bauer’s rules are simple. Let him use your body as he sees fit, and don’t try to be anything more than that. Bauer tries to play it off as him being a good person. “I imagine if I was married at this point, I would be a very bad husband.” What a nice guy. He doesn’t think he’s ready for a relationship so instead he treats women like objects.
More disturbingly, back in 2019, he spent days harassing a college student on twitter. Bauer, the Major League pitcher with 135,000 followers at the time, decided to go through the woman’s profile to find tweets with which he could torment her. Bauer, the MLB pitcher with 135,000 followers at the time, attempted to play the victim and accused the college student of being the aggressor in the situation, all because she tweeted that Bauer was “her new least favorite person in all of sports”. Never mind the fact that Bauer mentioned her in tweets over 80 times, most coming after the woman had stopped responding to Bauer and had blocked him. In that same Reiter profile where Bauer talked about his rules for dating, he also addressed his twitter harassment of the woman. When asked if he should be above responding and harassing people on twitter, Bauer, the MLB pitcher with 135,000 followers at the time, said “I am a role model because I show it’s okay to stand up for yourself.” His dating rules, twitter harassment and tweets mocking transgender people represent, at best, a blatant lack of respect for other people and a lack of self awareness. At worst, they show a misogynistic view of the world which is ignored by people in charge because he can throw a baseball well. There were warning signs. MLB could’ve reprimanded Bauer for his harassment, publicly condemning his actions. But MLB, as it often does, ignored a problem it could’ve stopped and instead let it grow into a bigger issue.
Bauer is not the first significant figure in MLB to be involved in a sexual violence case, and he’s not even the first to have a case in 2021. He’s just the most recent, and he’s the one that puts MLB’s treatment of those who commit sexual violence and the culture it perpetuates in the starkest light. Both Mets General Manager Jared Porter and Angels Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway were fired and put on the Commissioner’s ineligible list after investigations into sexual violence they had committed in the past. When it comes to players, Bauer is unfortunately not alone. 13 players have been suspended under the MLB-MLBPA’s Domestic Violence policy: Aroldis Chapman, José Reyes, Héctor Olivera, Jeurys Familia, Derek Norris, Steven Wright, José Torres, Roberto Osuna, Addison Russell, Odúbel Herrera, Julio Urías, Domingo Germán, and Sam Dyson.
But that does not even begin to cover the assaults and violence committed by players across both MLB and MiLB, such as Felipe Vazquez being convicted of child sexual abuse or Minor Leaguer Josh Lueke was arrested on rape charges. It also doesn’t cover situations further in the past that MLB did nothing about, such as when Dwight Gooden, Daryl Boston, and Vince Coleman of the Mets were charged with sexual assault in 1992 or when Wil Cordero was charged with domestic violence (Cordero was suspended by the Red Sox, his team at the time, for just 8 games). I don’t want to turn this article into a long, exhausting and very much incomplete list of all the professional baseball players to engage in sexual violence, but it must be mentioned that MLB has had a long history of players, executives, and club employees committing heinous acts and doing very little to curb it. MLB, with its relatively lax and tolerant stance on sexual violence, has fostered an environment where abusers are protected and defended.
When investigated by MLB, it was discovered that Mickey Callaway’s history of abuse was known by Cleveland manager Terry Francona and President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, whom Callaway had worked under while serving as pitching coach for Cleveland. Instead of firing him and reporting him to both MLB and the police, they hid and defended his actions to the families of those he abused. Jared Porter sexually harassed a female reporter to the point where she left the industry when he was the director of professional scouting. Porter was fired after the story was revealed by ESPN, but not before being hired as General Manager of the New York Mets. When asked about the situation, Team President Sandy Alderson had the following to say: “Jared is very well respected across baseball – not just respected, but well-liked as well.” Alderson continued to talk about the hiring process of Porter, saying “We had references from a variety of organizations, a number of individuals, people that had known him for a long time, people who endorsed him, people who knew him from his earliest days in college. There really wasn’t a dissenting voice.” When asked if the Mets had asked any women about Porter, Alderson said no.
What’s frustrating about all of this is that MLB can do the right thing when it tries. In April of 2021, MLB abruptly fired Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar from his role as a special consultant to Major League Baseball and placed him on the ineligible list, while the Toronto Blue Jays cut ties with him, revoking the title of special assistant, removing him from the Level Of Excellence, and removing his retired number banner from Rogers Center. Later that day, Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement that revealed that MLB had hired a third party law firm to investigate an allegation of sexual misconduct, which resulted in the actions taken by MLB and the Blue Jays. It was fast, and executed without fault. In Manfred’s statement, he says “We are grateful for the courage of the individual who came forward. MLB will strive to create environments in which people feel comfortable speaking up without fear of recrimination, retaliation, or exclusion.” MLB has correctly identified the right thing to do: they’ve done it before. They just have to care.
The issue is that more often than not, they don’t care. They didn’t care when they told Dave Roberts to keep Bauer as the scheduled starter for Sunday, they didn’t care when they waited two days to put Bauer on administrative leave, even after opening an investigation into him, and they didn’t care to defend the victim from recrimination when Bauer’s agents called her accusations false and released text messages sent between the two. (For further discussion on the texts, this twitter thread by Sheryl Ring goes into why they don’t acquit Bauer)
MLB is not a court of law. It is not in the league’s power to decide whether Bauer, or any other person involved in baseball who commits sexual violence, should go to jail or not. What is in its power is the ability to change its culture. It took MLB 113 years to create a policy concerning sexual violence, and it must continue to do more to end the disgusting and festering attitude in the sport. At a time when more women are becoming more involved in baseball, with some women finally integrating into roles previously held by only men, the league has to end a culture that enables and protects abusers. This is a culture that permeates through all levels of the sport. It’s the reason it took MLB 113 years and multiple commissioners to finally implement a domestic violence policy.
By and large, the sexual violence committed by baseball players does not harm MLB’s reputation. When MLB’s reputation is threatened, it is swift to punish those responsible. When the offense was gambling, the Chicago Black Sox and Pete Rose were banned for life and the act of betting on games was given a minimum one year suspension. When it was steroids, MLB implemented a much more rigorous set of punishments for those who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. There has been no crack down on sexual violence by MLB because there has been little to no condemnation by those outside MLB for the sexual violence committed under its watch, because the culture perpetrated in MLB that defends those that commit sexual violence exists outside of it as well. When members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America write about players, suspensions for sexual violence are treated as obstacles to overcome and not the deserved punishment they are (such as in this article by Bob Nightingale about Addison Russell), and perpetrators are painted as victims (such as when lawyer Steve Lindsey, who defended minor league pitcher Michael Ryan Mason when charged with first-degree rape, said “This is a guy whose dream was to play professional baseball, and he has probably lost his baseball dream forever”).
As authors Michael A. Messner and Donald F. Sabo wrote in the 1993 book Sex, Violence, and Power in Sports: Rethinking Masculinity, sports foster a culture of toxic masculinity which leads to an increased likelihood of sexual violence.
“Until fairly recently, rapes by athletes were treated as deviant acts by a few sick individuals. But news reporters and the public are now beginning to ask if incidents like [Mike] Tyson’s rape or the Spur Posse’s competitive promiscuity are not isolated at all, but rather manifestations of a larger pattern of sexual abuse of women by male athletes. Though no definitive national study has yet been conducted, a growing body of evidence strongly suggests that, at least among college students, male athletes are more likely than male nonathletes to rape acquaintances and to take part in gang rapes. Consider the following:
- Athletes participated in approximately one-third of 862 sexual assaults on United States campuses according to a 1988-1991 survey by the National Institute of Mental Health (Melnick, 1992).
- Of twenty-six gang rapes alleged to have occurred from 1980 to 1990, most involved fraternity brothers and varsity athletes, Chris O’Sullivan, a Bucknell University psychologist discovered (Guernsey, 1993).
- Among 530 college students, including 140 varsity athletes, the athletes had higher levels of sexual aggression toward women than the nonathletes, Mary Koss and John Gaines (1993) found. Koss and Gaines concluded that campus rape-prevention programs should especially target athletic teams.
Compelling as this evidence is, we want to emphasize two points. First, nothing inherent in men leads them to rape women. […] Second, nothing inherent in sports makes athletes especially likely to rape women. Rather, it is the way sports are organized to influence developing masculine identities and male peer groups that leads many male athletes to rape.”
Sabo continued by describing how sports create an environment where toxic masculinity thrives.
“Organized sports provide a social setting in which gender (i.e., masculinity and femininity) learning melds sexual learning. Our sense of “femaleness” or “maleness” influences the way we see ourselves as sexual beings. Indeed, as we develop, sexual identity emerges as an extension of an already formed gender identity, and sexual behavior tends to conform to cultural norms. To be manly in sports, traditionally, means to be competitive, successful, dominating, aggressive, stoical, goal-directed, and physically strong. Many athletes accept this definition of masculinity and apply it in their relationships with women. Dating becomes a sport in itself, and “scoring,” or having sex with little or no emotional involvement, is a mark of masculine achievement. Sexual relationships are games in which women are seen as opponents, and his scoring means her defeat. Too often, women are pawns in men’s quests for status within the male pecking order. For many of us jocks, sexual relationships are about man as a hunter and women as prey.”
The problem starts with athletes of a young age. When groups of confused, hormonal teenagers are put into an exclusively male environment where being the most powerful is the goal and those that aren’t seen as powerful are considered failures, toxic masculinity is a common and consequential development. It’s a problem across all sports, but MLB, as one of the largest sports leagues in the United States, has a responsibility to try and end the fostering of toxic masculinity. It cannot stand by and let its future stars develop disturbing views on women and sexual violence. MLB already has multiple programs dedicated to engaging with and developing young baseball players, using those outreach programs to try and teach young players about sexual violence, rape myths, and toxic masculinity as a whole.
MLB is also extremely good at marketing and raising awareness when it tries. Unique uniforms for holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s day already exist and are very striking. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center designates April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the first Tuesday of every April as the SAAM Day of Action. Simply have players dress in a unique uniform for the series that the Day of Action takes place on, with teams that don’t have a game on the Day of Action wearing the uniform for whatever series falls on the dates nearest to the Day of Action. A corresponding donation to the NSVRC would also help combat sexual violence in a more substantial way. Those are two potential ways in which MLB could combat the culture in sports it helped to start, but there are more immediate ways MLB could curb sexual violence by its players and prevent the perpetuation of this violence.
MLB-MLBPA’s current policy to prevent sexual violence is not working, which means we need to analyze how it aims to prevent players from committing these heinous acts. As it stands, the MLB-MLBPA’s domestic violence policy mainly serves as a way to deter players from engaging in sexual violence with the knowledge that said player would be punished for their actions. It does not work. We know this not only because players still commit sexual violence, but because some offenders don’t even try to hide it, as evidenced when Domingo Germán slapped his girlfriend in view of a member of the Commissioner’s Office. As a secondary effect, the policy also has offenders take classes dedicated to sexual violence in an effort to prevent repeat offenders. This also does not work, as evidenced by Derek Norris and Aroldis Chapman’s responses, neither of which show that the offender has remorse or even understands that harming your partner is wrong.
Something needs to change. One potential solution would be to implement a harsher punishment, with a zero-tolerance policy permanently banning offenders being a seemingly ideal solution. But that would just lead to more problems. In an article with USA Today, executive vice president of the National Network to End Domestic violence Cindy Southworth said:
“Counter-intuitively, we don’t want sports leagues to have a zero tolerance policy. And the reason for that is if we would say that the first time your partner calls 911 your career is over, her risk of homicide shoots through the roof. Because he has nothing to lose and everything to lose at the same time. We’ve actually been advising the sports league to take a very swift, very robust approach but not to say that first-time and you’re out of it, your career is over because the pressure then on the victim not to call for help is massive. And we want them to be able to call 911. We need them to reach out for help.”
As a society at large, our number one priority should be to protect victims, not exact punishment on offenders.
An alternate solution would be for MLB, MLBPA, and the justice system to work together. Even when an investigation is deemed necessary for situations by the MLB and the MLBPA, the two parties do not involve the police if the police are not already involved, as evidenced when Domingo Germán’s investigation did not lead to a police report or a case being opened. MLB is not the legal system. They cannot be the only judgment a player faces for a criminal act. MLB can have their own investigation, but they must also alert and involve the police in every case. During MLB’s investigation, the investigated player should immediately be placed on administrative leave and should stay on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation. Administrative leave is not a punishment. The player still gets paid and still accrues service time. The player is just unable to appear in games, as he is no longer a member of the active roster. Should MLB find that the investigated player violated the MLB-MLBPA’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy, the suspension should include a post-season ban and be a minimum of 80 days, with higher minimums for repeat offenders. MLB should also pay for the legal fees of the persecutor should any charges be filed and taken to court.
MLB, at the end of the day, is responsible for the actions committed under its watch and should act like it. MLB’s punishment for club executives engaging in sexual violence is slightly better. After investigations into Mickey Callaway and Jared Porter, both were placed on the ineligible list and will only be eligible for reinstatement after the 2022 season. But it is still not enough. MLB cannot scapegoat Callaway and Porter as individuals whose actions were deemed abhorrent by the more accepting wider baseball community. Callaway was protected and Porter’s history was overlooked. Teams that are shown to be aware of an executive’s actions yet do not report them and teams that hire offenders should be fined have a selection of draft picks forfeited. Should a club executive protect an offender by not reporting him, they should also be placed on the ineligible list with the offender they protected.
The rules I proposed both try to prevent sexual violence by deterrence, much like the MLB-MLBPA’s current policy. Neither are long term solutions. Punishments and deterrents can only do so much; MLB and society as a whole must strive for sexual violence prevention by creating a culture that doesn’t desire sexual violence. I talked about how MLB could raise awareness of sexual violence by both educating young players about the topic as well as hosting nights dedicated to the topic. Both would ideally contribute to a culture that is less tolerant of sexual violence and toxic masculinity as a whole, but there is still more that can be done. MLB must be vocal about its condemnation of acts that perpetuate toxic masculinity, such as when Bauer harassed a female college student as I talked about earlier or when Aubrey Huff tweets anything. It has to be more active at educating its players about sexual violence before it happens, not waiting until after they engage in sexual violence. But most of all, it must look within. Of the nine members of the Commissioner’s Office, seven are men, and six are white men. Only 22 women hold on-field coaching or player-development roles. Kim Ng became just the first female General Manager in MLB history when she was hired by the Marlins in 2020. There has never been a female manager. If MLB truly wants to end sexual violence by its players and club officals, it needs to end the old boys club. Over the past year Major League Baseball has made plenty of changes to the sport. It’s time to change the organization.
As a final note, for anybody whose first thought when reading this article is that these players are innocent until proven guilty or that the victims in these stories are lying, please know that the vast majority of rape and sexual assault cases are not false. According to a publication by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in 2012:
“A review of research finds that the prevalence of false reporting is between 2 and 10 percent. The following studies support these findings:
- A multi-site study of eight U.S. communities including 2,059 cases of sexual assault found a 7.1 percent rate of false reports (Lonsway, Archambault, & Lisak, 2009).
- A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston from 1998-2007 found a 5.9 percent rate of false reports (Lisak et al., 2010)
- Using qualitative and quantitative analysis, researchers studied 812 reports of sexual assault from 2000-2003 and found a 2.1 percent rate of false reports (Heenan & Murray 2006).”
Furthermore, it is important to consider the unfortunate fact that many victims never bring their assaults to notice, with the NSVRC stating “The majority of sexual assaults, an estimated 63 percent, are never reported to the police,” as well as the fact that “many published reports do not clearly define false allegation, and often include data that falls outside of most accepted definitions”. If you are one of the people who thinks that way, please reflect on yourself and your thought process. The false narrative that false accusations are common and those that come forward with stories of sexual violence are just trying to make money is one of the largest reasons as to why victims don’t report what has happened to them. As a society, we need to make sure the victims of sexual violence are able to report what happens to them and that they don’t face any more pain and suffering than they’ve already been through.