Cubs manager Joe Maddon has chosen to stick his head in the sand about the situation surrounding shortstop Addison Russell. Last week, Russell’s ex-wife Melisa Reidy-Russell wrote a blog post detailing years of mental and physical abuse from Addison. As a result, Major League Baseball placed Russell on administrative leave while the league continues its investigation of allegations that surfaced last year.
What are manager Joe Maddon’s thoughts on the situation? Well, he hasn’t even bothered to read the allegations against his star shortstop, per 670 The Score. Maddon said, “I’m not involved in that at all. It’s a league situation. There’s a process in place to deal with this between the players’ union and MLB and of course Addison’s involvement too. I’m totally not in that picture right now.”
Maddon continued, “Addison hasn’t written anything either. I’m going to wait until the process runs its course. I’ll get all the information needed at that point. There’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing I can do to help the situation at all. Like I said, there’s a process in place. I haven’t spoken to Addison yet since this has all occurred. We’ll just let it play the course out. We’ll wait for decisions to be made based on folks who actually are investigating this. I really have no involvement. I really do want to stay clear of it because there’s nothing I can do to help it.”
Defending his choice not to read Melisa’s allegations, Maddon said, “I’m not going to be swayed one way or another by reading this I really have no interest in reading this. I’m more interested in waiting for the investigation to finalize itself, and then I’ll read what’s going and what had been said once it’s been vetted properly. Anybody can write anything they want these days with social media, blogging, etc. So I’m just going to wait for it to play its course, and then I’ll try to disseminate the information based on both sides, MLB itself, along with the players’ union and getting together with Addison and his former wife, and then I’ll read the information to try to form my own opinions at that point.”
Maddon’s comments on the surface seem rational and level-headed. However, Maddon is simply abdicating his responsibility as a public-facing authority figure in baseball. He thinks that he doesn’t have to pick a side. To quote Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
This isn’t just a blog post. Last year, Melisa made an Instagram post accusing Addison of cheating on her. In the comments, Melisa’s friend accused Addison of abusing Melisa. MLB began an investigation into the situation, but Melisa ultimately chose not to cooperate, which is common among victims of abuse for a multitude of reasons. She filed for divorce, then stewed on the situation for over a year before deciding to come forward with details.
For Maddon to say, “Addison hasn’t written anything either,” is to cast heaps of doubt on Melisa’s claims. This is damaging to Melisa, who had to display tremendous courage to come forward. It is also damaging to the many people watching the situation unfold, telling them that if they were to follow in Melisa’s footsteps and out their own abusers, they will be summarily discredited and not believed. Maddon’s comments reinforce baseball’s toxic culture which favors abusers over victims, something MLB is obviously trying to change with its recent amendments to the domestic violence policy.
MLB has made laudable efforts in recent years to open its arms more to women, people of color, the LGBQTIA community, and other marginalized groups. Its last two World Series winners — the Astros and Cubs — keep stepping on rakes, threatening to undo the progress that has been made. During the offseason, MLB needs to instruct players, coaches, and front office personnel how to appropriately talk about sensitive issues like domestic violence. And Maddon needs to sit in the front row for that seminar.