I have been watching the Pirates-Cubs game at Wrigley Field this afternoon and noticed something odd. When Cubs shortstop Addison Russell walked up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning, Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It” played. I wasn’t the only one who found this disconcerting:
I went back to Russell’s previous at-bats this afternoon and, as far as I can tell, his sixth inning at-bat was the only one for which “Beat It” was played.
Russell was accused of domestic violence last year, which spurred an investigation by Major League Baseball. It didn’t go far, as Russell’s wife refused to speak to MLB. Instead, she filed for divorce and her attorney released a statement saying, “It is her desire to pursue a resolution that is, first and foremost, in the best interest of the parties’ son, and which occurs in a swift, amicable, and private fashion.”
As we have mentioned before when these unfortunately common incidents occur, victims of domestic violence sometimes refuse to cooperate with authorities for a variety of reasons, one of which includes fear of revenge from the abuser. Just because MLB’s investigation didn’t go far doesn’t necessarily absolve Russell of blame. We can’t convict him in a court of law, but we can still condemn him in the court of public opinion.
All of this is why the choice to play “Beat It” before his sixth inning at-bat on Tuesday — whether chosen by Russell or the stadium DJ — is in bad taste. This isn’t the only time that’s happened, either. Back in August 2016, the Cubs fired their then-DJ who played the song “Smack My B***h Up” for then-closer Aroldis Chapman, who was also accused of domestic violence.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2016 that Major League Baseball had the smallest share of female fans of any major sport. Incidents like this are why. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from the CDC, nearly one in four women have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Baseball keeps telling women it finds their issues unimportant or funny rather than serious.