Major League Baseball and the MLB Player’s Union have announced a new “Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.” The full announcement can be found here: Twitter link.
Reaching agreement on a policy of this kind was long said to be a priority, especially in light of the multiple controversies that have engulfed the NFL in recent years. In its final form, the policy appears to empower Commissioner Rob Manfred to act strongly in the event that allegations arise or are found to be borne out by an investigation.
According to the policy, the Commissioner’s Office is tasked with investigating “all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in the Baseball community.” Notably, the Commissioner is vested with the authority to “place a player accused of” such behavior “on paid Administrative Leave for up to seven days while the allegations are investigated before making a disciplinary decision,” though players also have a mechanism to challenge that treatment “immediately.”
If the Commissioner finds that a player has committed one of the covered acts, he has broad power to determine the penalty. By its terms, the policy does not place any limitations on the type or duration of the punishment, providing that “the Commissioner can issue the discipline he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct” — regardless whether the player faces any criminal charge or conviction.
The primary check on the propriety of any punishment is through the arbitration process. Players can appeal to the MLB-MLBPA arbitration panel, which will determine whether the Commissioner had “just cause” for the discipline imposed. The panel can refer to prior league disciplinary precedent except for that involving domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse. (Effectively, then, the record of prior discipline in these arenas has been wiped clean and cannot be used to argue for a more limited punishment.)
The agreement includes more than just provision for investigation and punishment. Intervention, treatment, training, and education are all contemplated. It also provides for a 24-hour helpline for players and families and other such resources.