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Jose Reyes on paid leave: a shift for sports in domestic violence cases?

Major League Baseball player Jose Reyes is the first baseball player to be placed on paid leave under the MLB's new domestic violence policy. 

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    In this photo from August, 2015, Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes watches from dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in Denver. Reyes was placed on paid leave Tuesday, under Major League Baseball's new domestic violence policy and will not report to spring training.
    David Zalubowski/AP Photo/File
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The Colorado Rockies’ shortstop Jose Reyes will be on paid leave until the resolution of criminal proceedings in a domestic violence case against him.

The Major League Baseball organization has instituted new domestic violence policies in response to a rash of allegations against sports stars. The terms of the policy provide for treatment and intervention both for players who have engaged in domestic violence and their victims.

"We believe that these efforts will foster not only an approach of education and prevention,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, “but also a united stance against these matters throughout our sport and our communities."

The MLB announced that the Commissioner’s office will investigate allegations of domestic violence, and that the Commissioner had authority over matters of discipline. The policy was agreed upon by the MLB and the MLB Player’s Association.

“We are hopeful that this new comprehensive, collectively-bargained policy will deter future violence, promote victim safety, and serve as a step toward a better understanding of the causes and consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse," said MLB Player’s Association director Tony Clark.

Reyes is the first player to be prosecuted under the new domestic violence policy. He was arrested in Hawaii while on vacation in October after a domestic altercation with his wife. A 911 call by a hotel security guard indicates that Reyes’s wife was treated by a medic at the scene for injuries to her leg and neck.

Reyes was held on $1,000 bond. He has pled not guilty to the charges against him, and will go on trial on April 4. Reyes will miss spring training and the start of the Rockies’ regular season, which begins the day he is scheduled to go on trial.

Due to the League’s policy regarding paid suspension, Reyes will still begin to collect his $22 million salary during trial proceedings.

“If further discipline is issued, or if Mr. Reyes' paid suspension is not resolved in a timely fashion,” said the Player’s Association in a statement, “the Players Association will work with Mr. Reyes to ensure that all of his rights under the Policy are protected.”

Two other MLB players are being investigated under the new domestic violence policy. Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees both face investigation for separate charges.

Some are seeing this disciplinary action as a step forward for major-league athletics associations, which have long struggled with domestic violence cases.

When the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane was under investigation for rape, he was allowed to continue to play. After the NHL failed to prosecute the hockey superstar, critics of the League’s handling of the incident said in a Chicago Tribune article that Kane should have been suspended with pay while the League investigated.

“By essentially refusing to acknowledge the allegations, the NHL was essentially saying one of two things,” said former hockey writer Melissa Geschwind, “Either that the alleged crime wasn't serious enough to warrant mention or that the accuser was not to be believed."

In the National Football League, at least 94 players had been accused of domestic violence as of last March. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jameis Winston have both been accused of assault, though critics say that the NFL mishandled Rice’s case. Winston wasn’t even charged, though the incident did happen before he was drafted by the NFL.  

Although many of those accused of domestic violence have been male, the problem of league inefficacy in investigating players is widespread. When US National Soccer Team goalie Hope Solo was accused of domestic violence against her sister and nephew in 2014, she was allowed to participate in practices with her professional team, the Seattle Reign, as soon as she was released from jail.

U.S. Soccer remained quiet on the matter for months. In fact, ESPN reports that there was no evidence of an attempt by U.S. Soccer to even obtain police reports related to the incident.

Gabriel Feldman, professor of sports law at Tulane University, told The Christian Science Monitor that he believes the United States in general has a domestic violence problem. But he calls the MLB's new policy "a recognition by both the league and the players that more needed to be done to provide appropriate punishment for domestic violence offenders and to provide greater education, counseling and other services to players and their families."

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