Baseball league creates domestic violence policy

Izabela Zaluska , Copy Editor

Recent cases of domestic violence in the sports world have prompted the Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Player Association (MLBPA) to implement an informational program for their players about domestic violence. The program “Strike Out Violence: Strategies for Healthy Relationships” is being run by MLB and Futures Without Violence, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing information about domestic and sexual violence.

The program took place during the first two weeks of Spring Training in March for all roster players, and there will be a similar program for players who aren’t on the official roster but are affiliated with a minor league team. Parts of the curriculum include defining domestic, sexual and child abuse, understanding the consequences of abuse, encouraging peer support among players and getting assistance when necessary, according to MLB Vice Public Relations President Michael Teevan. The goal of the program is not only to inform about domestic violence, but to also promote healthy relationships and communication on and off the field, Teevan said.

Working with Futures Without Violence to develop the curriculum of the program was Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, which has been promoting positive social changes through sport culture for over 30 years. A large part of the program is creating a skill set for the men who are bystanders and giving them the power and ability to intervene, said Dan Lebowitz, Center for the Study of Sport in Society Executive Director.

“Anytime you can give out information and educate [about domestic violence], it’s a good thing,” Paul Mazzuca, boys varsity baseball coach, said. “[MLB] is learning from the NFL’s mistakes and implementing a program before something happens.”

While this information session does include videos and paper handouts, the main part is the interactive portion. Players get to partake in various scenarios revolving around domestic violence and explore numerous outcomes depending on their choices. In addition to the program, MLB and MLBPA have set up an anonymous domestic violence hotline for its players and their families.

“One of the most important things when it comes to raising domestic violence awareness is starting a conversation when people are paying attention,” Lebowitz said. “Sometimes the way to do this is using celebrity culture as a platform to change normal culture.”

In an interview with KQED News, Senior Vice President of Futures Without Violence Rachel Smith Fals drew attention to how important prevention is and how a large portion of this program focuses on not only having the players understand the consequences of domestic violence but also making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. This view of focusing on prevention was echoed by Payal Sud, domestic violence counselor.

“By making domestic violence more of a conversation through educational programs and commercials, it’s making the topic less hush hush and letting people know it’s okay to talk about,” Sud said. “What the MLB is doing is a good way to raise awareness about domestic violence because in society we look at [the players] as role models, and some may think, ‘if they can do it, why can’t I?’”

Being a baseball player is a job, and it doesn’t exempt the player from inappropriate actions off the field, Gabe Gordon ’17 said. MLB is demonstrating that similar to a job in the office, if something inappropriate is done, there will be consequences.

“A program like this isn’t just limited to sports, it should be taught to students or other professions too,” Gordon said. “It’s important to get kids aware early, so they know what domestic violence is, and the first time they hear about it isn’t on the news.”

Mazzuca agreed that information about domestic violence should be available to students at school, especially to those students who have not received information about domestic violence at home. The Center for the Study of Sport in Society has done numerous programs with high schools that had a similar message and curriculum to the one MLB has implemented.

“No matter what you do in life, you’re accountable for your actions,” Mazzuca said. “A program like this teachers respect and the responsibility of being an adult.”