October is one of my favorite months of the year but not for the reason you might expect. Not for Halloween nor for pumpkin spice. It is the month when the NBA season starts and I know every night for the next nine months, I have the option to indulge in a matchup between some of the best basketball players in the world. This season feels different though, as the elephant in the room has surprisingly taken shape during the opening week despite a blatant cover-up attempt by the NBA.
I’m afraid of the standard being set by the NBA when confronted with the domestic violence charges against Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges and Houston Rockets wing Kevin Porter Jr.
Bridges was exposed by his former girlfriend, Mychelle Johnson, to have attacked and injured her in front of their two children during an altercation in June of 2022. It was alleged that Johnson passed out after receiving a broken nose, concussion, and strangulation from Bridges, and he was charged with domestic violence and child abuse just a couple of weeks later.
To understand the true nature of Bridges’ actions, was his more recent altercation with Johnson. As part of his plea agreement, two charges of the three were dropped, and he was handed a three-year probation which includes year-long classes in domestic violence and parenting with 100 hours of community service. Most critically, he was not allowed to be in contact with the victim in any fashion, physically or digitally.
The NBA, once signing his extension with the Hornets, enforced a 30-game suspension, yet the league removed 20 games as they were “already played” even though he sat out the entire 2022-23 season. This is where things get weird, as this would suggest a point of remorse for Bridges, and as a reward, the suspension was shortened to 10 games. Instead, Bridges doubled down and broke probation in the most vulgar way possible.
A summons was issued on Oct. 11, 2023, as Bridges threatened Johnson and allegedly threw pool balls at her car during a custody exchange, causing severe damage to the vehicle, with both children in the back seat.
This is horrific, and my heart breaks for Johnson and her two children who have likely been irreparably scarred from the actions of Bridges. So what has the response been from his employers? Complete silence.
This is where my distaste for the Hornets and NBA comes in, as Bridges’ punishment could have been an example-setting suspension that could have all but discouraged any player from resorting to such terrible actions for the future of the NBA. Instead, a 10-game suspension at the beginning of an 82-game season is about the lowest possible number of games Bridges could miss, and it is probably the 10 least important games on the schedule.
I have been very vocal about how he should no longer be playing in the NBA, as his presence is a reminder of the vulgar actions he has committed. For a league so entrenched in their image and branding of players, how can they expect to be taken seriously when issuing a punishment similar to that of the NFL’s suspension of Ray Rice following the infamous TMZ video of Rice punching his girlfriend in an Atlantic City elevator. Rice received a two-game suspension. The NBA, which I believe has been at the forefront of inclusion and social justice compared to the other four core American sports, just took a major step backward.
Where the Hornets failed to seek any ownership or remorse from Bridges, the Houston Rockets took a more hands-on approach for Kevin Porter Jr., who allegedly attacked his girlfriend in New York City in September of 2022, leaving her with fractured vertebrae and deep facial lacerations.
“Going back a few weeks, as soon as I heard the allegations, I informed his representatives that he could not be part of the Houston Rockets. They understood and he has not been with the team or around the team or had any interaction with the team since that time and will not be at media day today or in training camp,” Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone said during the team’s media day on Oct. 2.
Now, that may seem like the end of it, as it was expected that Porter Jr. would receive a suspension from the NBA, yet none came from the league office. Once again, the NBA is displaying a very accepting approach to two instances of domestic violence that appear pretty cut and dry. Obviously, nobody is guilty until proven in this country, and the NBA is aware of that, yet to punish Ja Morant for 25 games for brandishing a firearm after multiple investigations, and not establish a similar precedent for domestic violence feels very dirty, even for avid hoop watchers.
I ask the NBA how young men across the country are supposed to react to this. In fact, I was not the only one looking for an answer as to how the NBA perceives this issue, as TNT analyst Charles Barkley directly confronted the commissioner on opening night and this was his response:
Barkley: “I’ve got a serious question for you. There’s a couple of disturbing incidents of domestic violence in the NBA right now. What are we doing to address that? Because that is sick- you can’t put your hands on women man. And we should be at the forefront in sports when men hit women. So what are we going to do about that?
Silver: “That’s an area where we are not looking to compete against other leagues when you say ‘forefront’ so I think all the leagues are trying to address this issue but I know, again, our players’ association, credit to them, this wasn’t adversarial, we put in place a new program for how we deal with- first of all accusations of domestic violence even before they are prosecuted. Part of it goes towards training of our players, counseling of our players to make sure they understand situations, during high-stress situations to obviously never resort to violence against anyone. So, we’re addressing it, we have state-of-the-art counseling professionals dealing with our players. But of course, if a guy does cross the line, the consequences are enormous.”
It does not seem like enormous consequences when the two players were suspended for a combined 10 games. Watch the video of this interaction to get the full picture of Silver’s response, and how it appears he is comfortable with this topic being forgotten by the ever-changing wave of NBA media.
Hearing the commissioner’s response makes you wonder how players in the WNBA would react to this statement, considering the partnership the two leagues are currently involved in.
Do not let the NBA’s silence fool you, it is never okay to put your hands on women, no matter how angry, upset, confused, or stressed you are. I am blessed to have grown up with two strong women figures in my life with my mother and older sister. Not only have they echoed this understanding for me and my older brother, but they also lived it. Seeing two strong women figures accomplish most of what they set out to do, and when they aren’t able to accomplish something, are able to independently get back on track quickly and confidently, is inspiring and something I never take for granted.
If you do not have a situation similar to this, I urge you to encourage friendly small talk with working women in your community and build those relationships as the lessons a man can learn from women are priceless. For example, I had a great conversation with a Walmart customer service representative who was the mother of four children and was working to help support them all get through school. I’ll never forget the way her face changed when I began asking about what schools they went to, going from a working slog face to beaming with happiness and joy when talking about her children. I hope to experience that once I am a father, but the motherly instinct to rant about their children is undervalued and really made my day. I used to be slightly embarrassed when my mother would talk about me to other people, but now I better understand how happy this makes her feel.
I like to believe other men my age at school have done a generally good job when it comes to domestic violence, but I know for a fact the emotional abuse men can embed on women is way too common occurrence. I am honestly sick of talking to my women friends and hearing them reminisce about an ex or former guy friend who has sent them down a depressive path that shattered their self-confidence, all because of the awful word choice or decision-making the man had at that given moment or moments.
How is a man supposed to sit down for a job interview or family dinner, knowing that they are an abusive partner or friend? When will men have enough self-respect to never let themselves stoop to the level of yelling at and hitting a woman? And now, how is a man, that is also an NBA fan, supposed to look at the actions of Bridges and Porter Jr. and still see them play in NBA games this season, and not think that domestic violence is less of an issue than it is in reality?
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