The NBA Just Did What No Other Sports League Has Ever Done
The National Basketball Association has come down swiftly on a player who pleaded guilty to domestic violence with a punishment and rehabilitation plan that puts the National Football League's bumbling response to a similar incident to shame.
The NBA player in question, Charlotte Hornets forward Jeffery Taylor, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence assault in late October after shoving a woman and slapping her arm during a fight in a hotel. He was sentenced to 18 months probation.
Taylor received a 24-game unpaid suspension by the league; the Hornets had already suspended him indefinitely. That's in sharp contrast to the NFL, which suspended Ray Rice for two games for knocking his then-fiancée out in an elevator -- likely after officials saw video of him doing just that -- before hemming and hawing and finally suspending him indefinitely after the video became public.
What it did right: According to a three-page memo released by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the league had hired a pair of former prosecutors to investigate the incident immediately after it became known. On the other hand, in Rice's case, the NFL had infamously either failed to investigate or actively covered up evidence.
Silver wrote in his memo that he consulted with domestic violence experts before handing down Taylor's punishment:
"ln the course of the NBA's review of this matter, I received guidance from a group of domestic violence experts: Ted Bunch, Co-Founder of A Call To Men; Linda Fairstein, former Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office; and Kalimah Johnson, Founder of SASHA Center, a Detroit-based healing and awareness center focusing on sexual assault."
And here's a novel concept -- the NBA actually has women on staff who can help decide on what Taylor needs to do moving forward. He'll have to go through a domestic violence intervention program, receive alcohol counseling, perform community service and attend sessions with an NBA- and players union-selected counselor.
Setting an example: That's not to say the NBA hasn't had problems with doling out punishments in the past, but the NFL's mishandling of Rice's situation presents a clear reason for other leagues to step it up.
"While the suspension is significantly longer than prior suspensions for incidents of domestic violence by NBA players, it is appropriate in light of Mr. Taylor's conduct, the need to deter similar conduct going forward, and the evolving social consensus -- with which we fully concur -- that professional sports leagues like the NBA must respond to such incidents in a more rigorous way," Silver wrote in his memo.
Between this punishment style, its treatment of racist former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and its quick acceptance of openly gay player Jason Collins, the NBA wants to be a league that people don't feel bad for following. The NFL should probably take notice.