The ever opinionated Jeff Gundy left no room for interpretation regarding how he feels about the 8 game suspension levied against Darren Collison by the NBA. Earlier this month, Collison pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and was punished by the league, an 8 game suspension that begins when the regular season starts late October. (Collison avoided jail time by agreeing to court mandated counseling and community service).
8 games is not enough for Jeff Van Gundy, who was the color commentator of the Rockets-Knicks telecast last night. Van Gundy admits he was educated in the pernicious trauma of domestic violence when he attended a conference earlier in the day. He was amazed at the statistic that a woman is a domestic violence victim every 9 seconds. The conference, sponsored by the NFL, was right next door to where the Rockets were playing. Van Gundy talked about hearing a six-year old on a 911 tape after his mom had been beaten up. This was the impetus for his Darren Collison got over on the NBA reaction.
“Because the one thing I learned today. It is not a mistake. It’s a choice. It’s a choice to commit a violent act and I just think….it’s eight games. He comes back. I just think we have to do more.” (Jeff Van Gundy)
More punishment? A lot of domestic violence experts agree with him. Whereas the victims carry the trauma for the rest of their lives, the abusers are handed a get out of jail free card. Their life does not change, a fact not lost on Van Gundy who was emotional and at the same time very harsh and he should be. It makes sense. His reaction should be the reaction of every coach, player, team owner and front office personnel; sadly it is not. In a league that is based on a talent delivery system because that is how franchises earn maximum profit, teams want their talent to be available, no exceptions.
Van Gundy’s solution, what he wanted for Darren Collison, is a mandatory one year suspension. It sounds very Trumpish law and order but when you peel the layers back, that kind of suspension can be a significant motivator for further abuse. Who does it really punish?
There are a lot of complications and nuances; it is not as simple as you did this, now go away because women and children were involved. Despite what Van Gundy heard at the conference, all violence is not predmeditated. Violence is learned behavior. A lot of violence is emotional reactivity by a person unable to manage conflict without physical confrontation. Domestic violence traffics in stress, power, control, fragility and vulnerability. It is not the same as drug abuse. A drug abuser hurts himself. A domestic abuser hurts someone he loves. He changes them.
There is a school of thought that says too much air time is spent on the abuser. This is a victim crime and all resources should be on her. But abusers have to live in the world. They have to live with other people. In order for the cycle of violence not to perpetuate itself generationally, these difficult problems behind closed doors have to be addressed with all parties involved as stakeholders.
If you take away a man’s job for a year, if you take away an income, a livelihood, the stress only increases, and the repetition of said violence because of more family stress may increase as well. Furthermore, the victim will be blamed for the change in circumstance, creating even more hostility.
I understand the emotions and that sports leagues pay more attention to a player kicking a competitor in the groin than if he beats his wife with an extension cord. It shows the lack of empathy for female victims and how this very subject is buried on the last line of some book no one wants to read. But to suspend a player for a year when the court doesn’t jail him at all hurts the very victims it is supposed to help. The abuser is angrier. The victim has more fear. It is counterintuitive. Helping can mean hurting.
To assist victims, counseling and safe spaces are necessary. Accusers need to be punished. The most violent of them need to go to jail. Victims need to not be in court to testify. Women and children need help in erasing the burden of fear every time a door slams shut. Some need help in leaving the abuser. Women who love their violent partners and want to stay with them need family therapy with everyone on the same page: this needs to be fixed right now.
To help accusers, there should be an extensive punishment that is worse than testing positive for banned substances. There should be mandatory weekly counseling sessions, no fewer than 52 in a calendar year. The abusers should be forced to talk about what they did, in public. They should have to meet with victims groups so they can understand the impact of partner violence and how it changes you.
A one year suspension is the easy thing to do. It is easy. The hard thing to do is to help abusers change. At the very least, every NBA player should have to sign a morality clause with domestic violence as one of the non-negotiable crimes. Break the clause and your NBA job is in jeopardy, on hold. The abusive player, the team, the NBA and the Players Association will then develop a treatment plan for a cure. Then you get your job back. Depending on the person, his background, his crime, his sentence, his conviction, it can be three months, six months or a year. The NBA needs tough love. But they need to care about families too.
photo via llananba