How big of a problem is domestic violence within the world of professional sports?
Statistics have shown that athletes are no more violent than non-athletes, but that doesn’t mean that domestic violence isn’t a problem in the athletic realm. As the #MeToo movement continues to gain momentum, calls for accountability within all fields seem to be reaching an all-time high. In the wake of high-profile incidents of domestic violence — like that involving NFL pro Ray Rice and his wife — sports leagues have been called on to ensure that their policies are reflective of their commitment to cultivating a safe environment.
Here are eight athletes who have been suspended or have otherwise faced professional repercussions after being accused of or arrested for domestic violence.
1. Ray Rice
Following a domestic violence incident, NFL player Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. Rice, formerly a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was arrested on assault charges in February of 2014 after getting into an altercation with his fiance Janay Palmer at a casino in Atlantic City. The charges were later dismissed, but security cameras captured Rice hitting Palmer hard enough to knock her into unconsciousness and sparked a national conversation on domestic violence within the NFL.
Rice was initially suspended for two games without pay and issued a fine of $58,000, Time reports; his punishment was increased after video of the actual altercation was released, prompting the Baltimore Ravens to release Rice from the team and the NFL to suspend him indefinitely.
Rice later appealed the decision and successfully had his suspension overturned, making him eligible to play again. However, no team signed him, despite his pledge to play for free and donate his salary to domestic violence programs.
2. Austin Watson
NHL player Austin Watson was suspended for more than two dozen games this month after getting arrested for domestic assault earlier this year. Watson, forward for the Nashville Predators, was taken into custody on June 16 after a bystander witnessed him getting into a physical altercation with his girlfriend in the parking lot of a gas station. After police arrived on the scene and noticed red marks on the woman’s chest, Watson admitted to having pushed her. He pleaded no contest and was given three months probation in August, and was ordered to complete 26 weeks of a batterer intervention course.
The incident had serious repercussions on Watson’s career. The NFL conducted an independent investigation and announced on Sept. 12 that Watson was suspended without pay for all preseason games and the first 27 games of the upcoming season, leaving him effectively benched until December.
3. Roberto Osuna
Roberto Osuna, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays, was suspended for 75 games earlier this year after getting arrested in May for allegedly assaulting a woman. Toronto police opted not to release details regarding the incident for the protection of the victim, according to USA Today.
The league placed Osuna on administrative leave, and in June, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Osuna would be suspended without pay for 75 games for violating the MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. Osuna pleaded not guilty in the case, and will return to court this month, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Amid the drama, the Toronto Blue Jays traded Osuna to the Houston Astros in July. Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said of the trade, “Regarding the incident and the accusations, it is a very, very complicated situation. We are human beings, and everything is a variable when we’re making decisions, but ultimately, this was a good baseball deal that made sense for us.”
4. Darren Collison
NBA baller Darren Collison was benched for eight games in 2016 after pleading guilty to domestic battery charges. Collison, point guard for the Sacramento Kings, was arrested in May of that year after the authorities responded to a call reporting that a woman had been assaulted and arrived at the home to find that the alleged victim had sustained visible injuries, ESPN reports. Collison was charged with one count of corporal injury on a spouse and two misdemeanor bench warrants for driving on a suspended license, according to the outlet. He later pleaded guilty to “inflicting corporal injury” on the alleged victim, his wife Keyosha Collison.
Collison struck a plea deal in September of that year and avoided jail time by accepting a 20-day jail sentence served in an “alternative sentencing program” consisting of community service projects. After conducting their own investigation, the NBA suspended Collison for eight games the following month for his transgressions, citing such factors as “the conduct and its result” and “the player’s acceptance of responsibility,” among other things, according USA Today.
5. Daryl Washington
Daryl Washington, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, had his professional football career indefinitely stalled after a multi-year suspension for domestic violence. Washington was arrested and booked on two counts of aggravated assault in 2013 after allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend during an argument. Washington is alleged to have grabbed her by the throat and pushed her hard enough to cause her to fall and break her collarbone, NFL.com reports. He ultimately pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation.
His punishment at the hands of the NFL would last much longer, however. Throughout his career, Washington was dealt a number of suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and in conjunction with being suspended for the domestic violence incident, Washington spent three years suspended from the league. He was conditionally reinstated in April 2017, but was released from the Cardinals shortly thereafter.
6. Jose Torres
MLB pitcher Jose Torres was suspended for the remainder of the 2018 season earlier this year after a domestic violence incident in December. Torres, of the San Diego Padres, was arrested in December after getting into an altercation with a woman in the home they shared and allegedly brandishing a handgun and pointing it at her, according to NBC Sports. The woman was later identified as Torres’ wife and, according to NBC’s San Diego station, Torres was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage, and making threats or intimidation in February.
Torres pleaded not guilty and, in June, the league suspended him for the remainder of the season — 100 games — for violating the MLB’s policy on domestic abuse. According to USA Today, Torres has no plans to appeal the league’s decision.
7. Jeff Taylor
NBA player Jeff Taylor was suspended for two dozen games in 2014 following a domestic violence arrest that year. Taylor, forward for the Charlotte Hornets, was charged with one count of domestic assault, one count of assault, and one count of malicious destruction of property in September of that year after getting into a violent argument with a woman at a hotel in Michigan.
Taylor is alleged to have shoved the woman and slapped her arm, according to ESPN. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months of probation that included a mandatory 26-week domestic violence intervention program, according to the outlet, as well an outpatient alcohol treatment program.
The NBA suspended Taylor for 24 games without pay, in a move they considered “necessary to protect the interests of the NBA and the public’s confidence in it,” according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
8. Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith, cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended for four games last month after the NFL found him to be in violation of their Personal Conduct Policy, according to NFL.com. In a statement, the team announced that the NFL had found evidence that Smith had exhibited “threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors” toward a former girlfriend. His behavior was “inappropriate and wrong,” the team said, co-signing the NFL’s decision.
During a custody dispute last year, Micaela Sanchez, Smith’s ex and the woman with whom he shares a child, accused Smith of having “a history of being physically violent” toward her, the Baltimore Sun reports. Smith denied the allegations at the time, but in an August 2018 statement, took “full responsibility” for his past actions and apologized to his former girlfriend, the NFL, and his team, among others.
[Photo: Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. By Andy Lyons/Getty Images; Roberto Osuna of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on July 16, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. By Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images]