Content Warning – sexual assault and abuse
Baseball players, along with most athletes, are often times held to a reverence where they seem they are above reproach, just because they spark joy playing a little kid’s game. You fall in love with the way they play, their smile, their love of the game that just seems contagious in the way they play.
You overlook minor transgressions because hey, who hasn’t made a mistake? Or, well that was stupid, but nobody got hurt, and it doesn’t impact how he plays for my team.
But then there are some things that can no longer be overlooked, and the spark of joy that you once got from watching that player is now a sad ember soaked by the cold water of reality. And the same goes for finding out your team and the league were part of the cover-up.
The Washington Post has published an article stating that former Los Angeles Dodger Yasiel Puig had multiple sexual allegations against him during the 2017 season, that were kept under wraps by the team, and Major League Baseball.
Major League Baseball learned of the allegations during the 2017 season, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The article also states that the allegations were brought by two different women, and were committed on consecutive days before Spring Training in 2017. Famed lawyer Gloria Allred represented the two women, who ultimately settled with Puig paying a $325,000 settlement between the two women.
The league did not learn of the allegations until the 2017 season began, and did not choose to place Puig on administrative leave, as they have done with many other players accused of the same sorts of crimes. Puig then went on to have one of his best years, and the Dodgers had one of their all-time best seasons before having the Word Series tampered with by the Houston Astros.
When asked about the allegations against Puig, Stan Kasten, President and CEO of the Dodgers, said “I have no recollections of that”, and decline to answer further questions on the subject.
The article details other instances where the league investigated alleged wrong-doings by the Cuban star, such as pushing his sister in a nightclub. These also were kept quiet by the team, and the league.
For the league’s part, many victims refuse to go into all of their trauma again after a settlement has been reached, reasonably not wanting to relive their abuse again, and for fear that retribution will be sought against them for naming such a famous player.
In 2020, there was also a lawsuit against Puig, in which he was accused by a woman of assaulting her in the bathroom of a Los Angeles Lakers game in 2018, just after the Dodgers again lost the World Series. The public found out about those allegations when settlement talks broke down.
One can safely say that there is a pattern of abuse with Puig. So where does that leave his fans?
Some are able to compartmentalize, separating the man from his play on the field. Some would argue that the team had to legally keep these allegations covered up, and indeed the Dodgers were rumored to be shopping Puig most of the time he was with the team. How much of that is related to the allegations however, we will never know.
And I would be willing to give the team some benefit of the doubt in that context – they knew that he had legal issues and had repeatedly looked to move him off their team, as they finally did in the winter of 2018/2019 when they traded him (along with others) to the Cincinnati Reds.
The benefit of the doubt for the Dodgers – until they went out and signed someone like Trevor Bauer, who had many red flags and who himself has been alleged to have committed many sexual abuse transgressions.
So again, where does that leave someone in their fandom? What do you do with all the time and money invested only to be so incredibly disappointed in some of the people you were previously happy to have spent those commodities on? Does one just ignore all the red flags and root for the team on the front of the jersey, regardless of who’s wearing it? Or does your love of the sport slowly dwindle or drift away because it does not uphold the values you would hope it would?
The truth lies somewhere in the middle, which each fan making their own decisions as to what they can live with. I’m not here to tell anyone How To Fan. But me, all the joy that Puig brought to me will now be always be attached to the knowledge that maybe he isn’t a very good person or in the very least, a person who does bad things. And that is an utter and complete shame.