MLB Announces Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault And Child Abuse Policy

.jpg photo of new Family Violence Policy in MLB
MLB Announces Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault And Child Abuse Policy

In a year when violent and criminal off-the-field behavior by athletes has appeared prominently in the news, Major League Baseball has, for the first time, announced a comprehensive policy regarding players involved in domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse cases. The policy was announced jointly with and in agreement with the players union.

The terms of the policy, in their entirety, follow. In short, however, the policy has a dual treatment and intervention program along with a disciplinary program.

The treatment and intervention part will include the creation of a Joint Policy Board which will be responsible for evaluating a player and supervising the treatment of a player if treatment is deemed appropriate. If the player does not adhere to a treatment program, he will be subject to discipline.

Discipline will not carry a minimum or maximum penalty, but rather the Commissioner can issue the discipline “he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct.” Discipline will not be contingent on whether the player pleads guilty or is found guilty of a crime. A player can appeal discipline to an arbitration panel. A team cannot discipline a player unless the Commissioner delegates that power to the team.

One small but potentially important part of this is that past discipline, or the lack thereof, for domestic violence cannot be used as a basis of appeal. Likely because there has been no past discipline in any real sense. As such, if Rob Manfred were to hand down a 100 game suspension or something for a first offense under this policy, the basis of the appeal can’t be “well, Milton Bradley didn’t get 100 games.” That should allow Manfred to set a strict discipline regime from the get-go now without worrying about being overturned.

Here is the full policy:

A. Treatment and Intervention

  • The parties have established a Joint Policy Board, comprised of three experts in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and/or child abuse, and two representatives each from the Players Association and the Commissioner’s Office. The Joint Policy Board is responsible for evaluating, and where appropriate, supervising the treatment of a player.
  • An expert member of the Joint Policy Board will submit his or her proposed Treatment Plan to the full Board for approval. The expert who prescribed the Treatment Plan will be responsible for overseeing the player’s compliance with the Plan.
  • A player’s Treatment Plan may require him to submit to psychological evaluations, attend counseling sessions, comply with court orders (including child support orders), relocate from a home shared with his partner, limit his interactions with his partner, relinquish all weapons, and other reasonable directives designed to promote the safety of the player’s partner, children, or victims.
  • The Joint Policy Board will refer persons affected by domestic violence to appropriate intervention services.
  • A player who fails to comply with a Treatment Plan may be subject to discipline by the Commissioner.
  • All information relating to a player’s involvement with the Joint Policy Board shall be kept confidential.

B. Investigations

  • The Commissioner’s Office will investigate all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in the Baseball community. Consistent with the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, the player and the Players Association shall cooperate in the investigation, including making the player available for an interview.
  • The Commissioner may place a player accused of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse on paid Administrative Leave for up to seven days while the allegations are investigated before making a disciplinary decision. The agreement contains procedures for a player to immediately challenge that placement before the Arbitration Panel (below).

C. Discipline

  • The Commissioner shall have authority to discipline a player who commits an act of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse for just cause. There is no minimum or maximum penalty prescribed under the policy, but rather the Commissioner can issue the discipline he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct. The Commissioner’s authority to discipline is not dependent on whether the player is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime.
  • A player may challenge his discipline before the parties’ Arbitration Panel, which consists of a representative of each party and the parties’ agreed-upon Impartial Arbitrator. A challenge to discipline will be governed by the “just cause” standard. The Panel may consider evidence of both aggravating and mitigating factors concerning the Player’s alleged actions when relevant and appropriate.
  • The Commissioner may elect to discipline a player immediately after the conclusion of the player’s Administrative Leave, reinstate the Player and defer his disciplinary decision to until after resolution of any criminal charges, or under certain circumstances may suspend the player with pay until legal proceedings are completed (at which point the paid suspension may be converted to an unpaid suspension).
  • All disciplinary suspensions under the policy that are upheld are without pay and suspended players will not accrue Major League service.
  • A Club may not discipline a player for a violation of the Policy unless the Commissioner defers his disciplinary authority to the Club. Any such Club discipline may also be challenged through the arbitration process.
  • Under the new policy, the parties have agreed that prior precedent and past practice of disciplining players for engaging in an act of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse may not be relied upon by a player to support a challenge to the severity of his discipline, but that all other disciplinary past practice and precedent will remain relevant.

D. Training, Education and Resources

  • All players will be provided education in English and Spanish about domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse at regular intervals. (All Major League players participated in education sessions during Spring Training of 2015, and Minor League players at all levels have received training organized by their respective Clubs throughout the season).
  • A confidential 24-hour helpline (in English and Spanish) staffed by a team of experts in domestic violence has been established for players and their families, and we have identified highly-qualified resources in every Major League market who can provide on-the-ground support and resources to those affected by domestic violence.
  • The parties shall regularly provide resources to players’ families, including referral information, websites, hotline numbers and outreach facilities.
  • The parties will develop an annual program of community outreach which may include public service announcements featuring players, domestic violence awareness days at ballparks and other activities designed to spread awareness on the issues. Many Clubs already partner with anti-domestic violence organizations in this area, and many Players and their families already actively support domestic anti-domestic violence organizations in their communities.

GA Molester Is Still Teaching Martial Arts.

.jpg photo of victims of Child Sex Abuse by Coach
Seven former Taekwondo Junior Olympic medalists, alleging years of sexual abuse by their coach

CNN – Seven former Taekwondo Junior Olympic medalists, alleging years of sexual abuse by their coach who they say molested them as they traveled around the world to compete, are suing tournament organizers. The men are also suing their former instructor, Craig Peeples, who still coaches at a martial arts school he operates in the coastal town of Kingsland, Georgia.

The lawsuit goes after the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), one of the largest youth sports organizations in the country, Pak’s Karate Academy and USA Taekwondo (USAT), which is part of the U.S. Olympic Committee, for allowing Peeples to continue entering tournaments with children to this day, even after law enforcement in Georgia found “sufficient evidence” to move forward with criminal charges.

State officials say no criminal charges could be filed in the case because of the statute of limitations.

“The karate school is still open, and he’s still getting new kids to go out there,” one of the alleged victims, Christopher Brazell, told CNN in an interview. “(Parents) should know who they are taking their kid to. Just because the criminal statute of limitations has run out doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

The alleged abuse

All seven of the alleged victims were top competitors, prodigies in Taekwando, racking up Junior Olympic medals and state, national and even international titles.

“(Peeples) was who you went to if you wanted to be an Olympic level or Junior Olympic level athlete,” said another of the men, Justin Conway. “We all were at state championships … Olympic training centers, the U.S. Cup. How could you say anything about somebody who was so respected and so trusted? Who would believe you?”

The men say Peeples sexually assaulted them when they were in their teens — varying in age from 12 to 16 — from 1989 to 2000.

It happened during sleepovers at Peeples’ home, at Pak’s Karate and during tournaments on the road with Peeples often plying them with alcohol, showing them porn and then later giving them gifts and money, they said in interviews with CNN and in the lawsuit.

They recalled how the abuse often happened in group settings — a letter from the district attorney described incidents occurring “with as many as six or seven boys of similar age in the room at the same time.”

All the while, their lawsuit says, Peeples would manipulate them, saying things to keep them from telling others what was happening.
“Peeples told Plaintiffs that his acts of sexual abuse were ‘just something guys do.’ … that they ‘would be grateful’ to him ‘for showing [them]…’ ” the lawsuit says.

“I thought there was something wrong with me. That’s how it was. That’s what you did,” Christopher Garwood said.

In such a high level of competition, they spent almost every waking moment with Peeples, traveling to California, Colorado, South Carolina, Florida and even the United Kingdom.

“Your idol, the guy that seems to have given you so much, is at the same time abusing you,” Brazell said. The men eventually taught Taekwondo at Pak’s Karate Academy as well.

Song Ki Pak, the owner of Pak’s Karate, which has multiple locations in the area, says he considers himself independent from Peeples, who pays him training and certificate fees.

Peeples’ attorney, Gary Baker, told CNN the allegations are false, isolated complaints from more than a decade ago, and that the men filing suit are disgruntled former instructors. He said Peeples plans to file a countersuit for slander.

“How is it that with all of this publicity and the thousands of students who have gone through that school, not one person has come forward and said, ‘Oh yes, me too?’ ” Baker said. “It’s finally an opportunity for us to prove that it’s all made up, false and an attempt to gain money. I’d rather it be tried in court than in the court of public opinion, which is the only thing that’s happened so far.”

AAU and USAT have not responded to CNN’s requests for comment.
The investigation

The civil suit was the first to be filed in Georgia under its new Hidden Predator Act, which expanded the civil statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse.

Several of these men, alongside their attorney Marci Hamilton, were instrumental in passing that act, even holding a news conference in the Georgia Capitol Rotunda in 2014, trying to draw attention and change the law.

After months of speaking out, they were finally successful, and the law allowing them to sue was signed March 16.

“We are hopeful,” said another alleged victim, Steven Hood. “I think it was a great step forward for the Hidden Predator Act, that was a big win and I think there’s still a long way to go, but I’m hopeful anyway.” There can be no criminal charges at the state level because too much time has passed.

In 2014, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigated the men’s claims and the Camden County District Attorney wrote a letter saying there was “sufficient evidence” of sodomy and child molestation but that the seven-year criminal statute of limitations in Georgia had run out for all of the victims, making it impossible for her to proceed with a criminal case.

Jackie Johnson, the district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, ended the letter with a plea for new evidence, saying, “any new evidence or witnesses coming forward could potentially affect our ability to proceed with criminal charges in this case.”

But so far, no one else has come forward. And the men, all but one who still live in the Kingsland, Georgia, area about 35 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida, say the community has not reacted the way they’d have hoped.

Instead of shunning Peeples, parents continue to send their children to Pak’s Karate; Peeples drives a bus to pick up elementary school kids and bring them to lessons. He even participates in town parades.

“It’s disappointing, it’s hurtful,” said one of the men, Steven Tann. “We’re out there trying to make sure kids aren’t getting hurt, and it’s like people don’t care or don’t believe us. It’s embarrassing that we even have to say this stuff, but it’s even more embarrassing that people don’t believe us.”

Continuing to coach

During the time these men allege abuse, the AAU was being run by Bobby Dodd, who was accused in 2011 of sexually molesting two players who came forward on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

The AAU contacted police, who investigated, but no charges were filed. Dodd resigned. Dodd’s attorney did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, but he has previously called the accusations “unsubstantiated, salacious allegations.”

Lauren Book, a Florida advocate who runs an organization fighting child sex abuse, says the AAU had no systems in place to protect children until she was called in to help after Dodd’s resignation. Even more shocking, she said, culturally, nothing seems to have changed.

“We were told and promised that these policies and procedures would be adopted and the culture at AAU would change. It’s clear what was existing here … you have an organization that seeks to protect its prestige and coaches over the lives of children,” Book said.

The AAU, which describes itself as “one of the most respected and oldest youth amateur organizations in the United States,” has been criticized for not properly dealing with coaches caught having inappropriate relationships with athletes. Most recently, it was criticized in an ESPN report for allowing a volleyball coach banned by USA Volleyball to continue with the AAU.

“I think the AAU is an organization that puts sports first and protection 3 or 4 or 5 down the line, which is a really scary thing,” Book said. “… It’s a volunteer organization. You don’t have the right to be there.”