As a long time player rep for the MLB Players Association, I got involved in some tough cases. Strikes or near strikes, grievances, drug policies. We thought collectively, but every once in a while, a player took matters into his own hands for a variety of reasons. Delmon Young, who was recently suspended for seven games without pay (which means he will be docked about $250,000) has decided to accept his punishment without using the union to appeal. But this is bad for Young, and bad for the game of baseball.
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No doubt Young has decided not to mount a defense in part because what he did was indefensible. Young was arrested after he assaulted a man outside his team hotel and allegedly made anti-Semitic slurs. He was so drunk that he had to be taken to a hospital for the night to sober up.
A little background: Young is a tightly wound and competitive person who learned how to play the game from a disciplined father. He did unravel in one incident in the minor leagues for throwing a bat at an umpire in a fit of frustration. Not that this excuses his behavior, but most of his high-strung expectations come from what he puts on himself. His brother, Dmitri, was also a successful long-time major leaguer and is considered an ambassador to the game of baseball even as he too endured his own personal struggles.
Hate crimes cannot be tolerated, and whether Young was at the ballpark or not, he still has a greater duty as a visible professional athlete. Even so, he should still challenge the ruling, in part to support the process that was built on the backs of so many players that came before him. Challenging it does not condone the actions, does not support the hurtful words, does not make you sleep at night, but it does get the community of players involved so that they have to respond collectively to an issue. It means that the community then has to address any potential institutional problems that may have contributed to this offense, or at least think collectively about possible solutions.
Young is remorseful and reportedly undergoing anger management, although that never lead to sustainable improvement. In the end, he may find it most fitting to take another $250,000 and make a donation to an organization that represents those most impacted by his offensive words. The league and the player’s association would likely endorse that gesture as well.