Prior to the beginning of pre-season in the National Hockey League (NHL), Nashville Predators’ forward Austin Watson was handed a 27-game suspension for domestic violence. The incident involved him and his girlfriend, and occurred just a few months before the suspension was declared by Commissioner Gary Bettman. The 27-game suspension accounts for roughly 33 percent of regular season games, as Watson would be set to join his team in December.
This was not the case as Watson appealed his suspension and, after consideration, it was reduced to 18 games by Arbitrator, Shyam Das. The NHL commented on the reduced suspension and were “Disappointed” as they felt an Arbitrator did not need to come into play and that they had initially made the right call .
Time and time again, it seems as though professional athletes get their domestic violence charges either rationalized or excused in comparison to an average person. With support from their community, coaches and teammates, they typically seem to be given a lighter sentence. Athletes are making millions of dollars per year, and fines/suspensions are not doing enough, nor are they strict enough. There are discussions that encourage leagues to enhance their focus on addressing the causes of domestic violence, ultimately engaging with the community and goals that are in line with socially responsible actions. It begs the question: Should these professional leagues be responsible for disciplining the accused? Or should we put it in the hands of the Law? (ARTICLE)
The NHL does not have a domestic violence policy to follow. They take each case individually and judge each incident separately. One would think a professional sports league would have some type of policy they would follow in these type of actions. It would benefit them in structuring the punishment(s) of the individual(s) involved. Some outcomes are much more severe than others. Slava Voynov, former defenseman of the Los Angeles Kings, had a domestic violence incident in 2014 and is still receiving his Indefinite Suspension today. This is one of the few cases where the athlete did not get any particular privileges.
Professional athletes are role models for young children and actions like these need to have severe punishments. Not some mere 17-game suspension. It doesn’t display a strong enough message to the younger ones. There needs to be considerable action.