WNBA Backs Domestic Violence – Punishes Victim of Assault

Recently there was an incident involving two women’s professional basketball players, Glory Johnson and Britney Griner.  The two got into a domestic dispute which turned violent.  Glory says she was attacked with a hardened carrying case of some sort.  She was hit in the back of the head with it more than once and a CT scan has confirmed that she experienced both a concussion and spinal damage as a result. Griner also sustained some minor injuries in the fracas.

The two were arrested and Griner pled guilty while Johnson maintained her innocence.

From the Sport Illustrated interview with Glory.

Brittney understands why I pled not guilty, and I understand why she pled guilty … she was even willing to speak to whoever she needed to, to get the point across.

No doubt it can be difficult to determine who the aggressor is in incidents such as this one and it is exacerbated by the fact that one of the participants is not greatly over-matched by the other as is the the case when we see an NFL player fighting with his spouse.  There can be a presumption if the smaller party is greatly injured that the larger and stronger person could have avoided causing those injuries even if they did not initiate the conflict so there is arguably some grounds for punishment even when the actual details are murky.

Here the participants were more evenly matched with one being 6’8″ and the other 6’4″.

What is interesting is the response of the WNBA.  There seems to be enough information to determine who the aggressor was, but even if there wasn’t they chose to punish both of the women involved knowing that such a decision insured they would punish both the aggressor and the victim no matter who played which role.

I have always thought it is not the place of a business to punish employees for transgressions in their private life.  That is what courts are for.  It is too difficult to figure out what happened without all of the investigative powers and due process involved in the legal system, and you risk doing harm to the wrong people.  It also perpetuates the notion that athletes should be role models for something other than their athletic ability.  I think it is healthier if we separate professional accomplishment from private life so we are not let down when we find out our heroes are human.  Better to understand that concept from the start.

But if a sports league or any other business is going to meddle in the private lives of their employees then they should at least not choose to do so in a way that assures they cause harm to an innocent person.  I can’t say for sure what happened between Griner and Johnson any more surely than the league can.  But this notion of punishing the victim along with her tormentor does nothing to help the issue of domestic violence and frankly, it is just an evil thing to do.  I am surprised there has not been more outrage about it amongst women’s rights advocates.  If a man had injured the spine of a woman in this sort of attack it would be all over the news and the league would not have dared to punish the victim.

Griner and Johnson attribute the incident to stresses involved in planning their wedding and making arrangements with fertility clinics to start a family together.  I wish them both the best but fear the worst since this is not the first time Griner has been involved in a physical confrontation. She broke the nose of an opposing player, Jordan Barncastle with a sucker punch and was ordered to attend therapy sessions by her college coach as a result.
This is an excerpt from the book Griner wrote which I found on the Huffington Post.  (There is no link because they did not allow comments and it is the policy of this blog to not reward gatekeepers.)

In the years after “the punch,” the storyline became that I had made this one mistake, and it was totally out of character for me. She’s just a big teddy bear. A gentle giant. I was glad people were willing to forgive what I had done, but I also felt a little uncomfortable with how simplified everything was — all neat and tidy and fixed — when the reality was that I had worked hard to control my anger.

If Johnson were my own daughter, and this played out the way I suspect it did, I would tell her to run as far and fast as she can.  And I would tell her to sue the ass off of the WNBA.

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