White Sox’ Mike Clevinger the latest athlete accused of domestic abuse

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You wake up and read the sports news like you always do. You wait for what you know is coming, because it always does. It doesn’t take long to learn that four male athletes have been accused of domestic violence in separate incidents.

This was Tuesday, but it could have been any day of the week ending in “day.’’

There’s something about male athletes and power and control. I’ve spent the better part of a career pondering what makes them so violent toward wives and girlfriends. All I have is thoughts and theories and disgust.

Major League Baseball is investigating White Sox pitcher Mike Clevinger after a woman accused him of physically and emotionally abusing her and their 10-month-old daughter. The woman says Clevinger choked her and threw used chewing tobacco on the child.

UFC star Conor McGregor is being investigated for allegedly assaulting a woman in Spain. She claims he punched her in the face and threatened to drown her.

San Jose police arrested 49ers defensive lineman Charles Omenihu on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence after his girlfriend called 911 to report that he had pushed her to the ground during an argument.

University of Georgia wide receiver Rodarius Thomas was arrested on charges of felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery-family violence after he allegedly blocked a woman from leaving her dorm room. Police said the woman had bruises on her biceps and abrasions on her shins.

The four men have been accused of, not found guilty of, domestic violence. Perhaps none of them did what the women said they did. But these things happen so regularly that one can be forgiven for thinking the worst. In sports, the worst is our constant companion.

The percentage of male athletes who abuse women in this country reportedly is lower than the percentage of men in the general population who abuse women. One thing is certain: More attention is given to celebrity domestic-violence incidents. That attention should lead to a significant decrease in numbers. It hasn’t.

High-income groups have a much lower rate of domestic violence in the U.S. than a high-income group like professional athletes does. Money doesn’t necessarily mean peace for athletes or their significant others. 

The assumption is that because star athletes have it all they should be above striking women. But having it all might be the very thing that triggers that behavior. They’re so used to having their way, so used to their physical talents creating favorable outcomes in competition, that perhaps a woman is meant to be controlled just like everything else is. Resistance brings on rage and insecurity in the men. Is that what it boils down to?

What I do know is that athletes never seem to learn. You’d think after decades of ugly news about fists hitting women’s faces that high-profile men would realize, at a minimum, that nothing good comes of this. Never mind the obvious moral scandal of hitting a smaller, more vulnerable person. The damage to an athlete’s reputation and finances would seem to be a detriment, right?

Not enough of one, obviously. If sports leagues truly cared about cutting down the number of domestic-violence incidents, they’d install a zero-tolerance policy. MLB has made progress from its days of suspending Aroldis Chapman for just 30 days after he choked his girlfriend and shot a gun in anger eight times. In the last two years, four players have been suspended at least 80 games each for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. Still, not enough.

You haven’t seen true forgiveness until you’ve witnessed a professional sports team acquire a player who has gotten into trouble. Remember how the Cubs tripped over themselves to praise Chapman after trading for him in 2016? He was rehabilitating himself, they said. It probably helped that he regularly threw a baseball 100 m.p.h. And when the Cubs won the World Series that season, the voices that had screamed about the franchise’s lack of morals were reduced to whispers.

That’s how it is. The leagues know it. The teams know it. The players know it, too. It’s the only explanation for athletes’ continued abuse of women. A zero-tolerance policy would put power in the hands of women, and wouldn’t that be ironic? The thing that domestic abusers most want — control — would be taken away and given to the abused.

Some experts have argued that it would make women less likely to call authorities if they knew their abusive husbands/boyfriends could lose their livelihoods. All I know is that very little has changed.

In the NFL, a player can get a lifetime ban for a second incident. But it didn’t help Ray Rice’s girlfriend when he punched her in the face in 2014, an incident that shocked the country.

You know what you call four more stories about athletes accused of domestic violence?

Just another day in the sports world.

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