Today, for the first time since he agreed to a suspension under MLB’s Domestic Violence policy for abusive actions in his relationship with ex-wife Melisa Reidy, Addison Russell addressed the media.
There was no version of the press conference that was going to leave everyone – anyone? – wholly satisfied with the process today, much less over the past year. I’m still trying to suss out my own feelings after watching, and trying to think about how this all should proceed for Melisa, for Russell, and for the broader baseball community. I am not a domestic violence expert, and I’m not going to play one on the internet.
Here is the entirety of Russell’s press conference:
Addison Russell addresses the media from spring training. https://t.co/scnU190ZGr
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) February 15, 2019
I suspect this won’t really move the needle much for anyone, and we’re still mostly lacking for specifics on how Russell has made himself accountable for his damaging past behavior. Perhaps that information will come over time.
I thought there were at least some positive takeaways for the broader discussion of domestic violence and sports.
My reaction as I watched and listened was that Russell’s statements were clearly well-prepared – he’ll be described as “robotic” by many, I imagine (though that’s kinda how he always sounds in interviews) – but at least the contents of the statements were generally among the better ones you’ll hear in these situations. Russell maintained focus on Melisa, which should be primary. He also focused on how he can be a better person in his relationship with her as a co-parent, and in his current relationship. He says he better understands what domestic abuse is, how it impacts those around him, and he owns what he did, while trying to leave the person that he was in the past by improving himself for his family.
I think those are good things to discuss, and good things for all of us to think about in these situations.
Russell did not, however, get into the specifics of his abuse, and did not take the opportunity to more broadly advocate for domestic violence treatment and prevention beyond his own individual situation. There was also a lack of emotional resonance, which is perhaps unfair to expect, but it will still stand out to observers.
As I said, I don’t expect this will move the needle too much in either direction. I’m not sure there was much of anything Russell realistically could have said or done today that would do that. If the Cubs are going to be committed to giving Russell a chance to stay in the organization, then it will take a lot more – and more time – for even modest changes in the way anyone feels.
But, as Theo Epstein has noted, and as Russell’s comments today suggest, if Melisa – who rightly remains the primary focus of making things right – supports Russell having this opportunity, then I do respect that.
Like I’ve said all along, I would have preferred that the Cubs let Russell go immediately last year. Maybe that was just the easy route, but I don’t think the Cubs had to hang onto Russell in order to do the positive things they want to do.
I can at least understand Epstein’s explanations for why the Cubs have gone the other way, and I can – and will – continue to hold them accountable for that decision. The hope is that, through this process, the causes of domestic violence treatment and prevention will ultimately be better served by what the Cubs and Russell do in the coming months and years. Epstein this week indicated the Cubs are taking organizational steps on that front. Russell today at least centered Melisa in most of his prepared remarks. I am open to the possibility that there is a positive long-term impact here for Melisa and the people in Russell’s life – the ones his behavior impacts most directly – and also for the baseball world as a whole, as it relates to domestic violence.
But as Epstein has said from day one on this: it’s fair to continue observing closely and holding the Cubs accountable for how they proceed.