As baseball season is winding down (and the playoffs are heating up), I’d like to reflect on some great efforts made by fans of the Chicago Cubs in response to a rather uncomfortable trade. I’m talking, of course, about Aroldis Chapman.
It wasn’t easy for fans at first when we heard about Aroldis Chapman coming to the Cubs. In July, the Cubs acquired the pitcher from the New York Yankees in exchange for Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, and minor league players Rashad Crawford and Billy McKinney. Even though Chapman is one of the best pitchers in the league right now, his trade to the Cubs came only months after he was involved in a rough scandal.
What Chapman Did, and What Happened
Last year around this time, Chapman allegedly made a series of disturbing decisions. He was accused of choking his girlfriend, Christina Barnea, during an argument. The incident also involved allegations of him entering his garage with a handgun, smashing in a car window, and firing eight rounds of bullets.
The bullets did not hurt Barnea, and Chapman stated that she was not harmed that night. Police officers who investigated the incident at Chapman’s Florida home said there was insufficient evidence to charge Chapman with domestic violence since witness testimony was conflicting, and it was hard to get many of the witnesses to cooperate.
So that happened in late October. The incident was made public in December. In March, while Chapman was still playing with the Yankees, he was suspended for 30 games due to the incident. And though he wasn’t jailed, he was recommended for a treatment plan, a form of rehabilitation offered by the MLB including counseling, psychological evaluations, court compliance, and relinquishing weapons (remember that a firearm was present in the incident) among other things.
At the time, he told his fans, “Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015. I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to certain actions, and for that I am sorry.”
When Chapman was traded to the Cubs this season, a lot of fans felt a little uneasy. We all know that our team is made up of some stand-up guys, and having someone who so recently had a big scandal on his record was disheartening for many of us. It’s not always easy to root for someone who you know has a history of violence – even if it is a relatively short one.
But rather than turn away from our Cubs, or look past Chapman’s scandal, fans (including myself) have used the incident to make a difference.
Supporting Chapman… by Helping Victims of Domestic Violence
The idea started with Caitlin Swieca, a loyal Cubs fan who was troubled by Chapman being put on the team. She let her Twitter followers know that every time Chapman got a save, she would donate $10 to a Chicago domestic violence organization.
It was a pretty great idea.
Many fans took Swieca’s lead, and since Chapman is the hardest throwing pitcher in baseball history, the donations are adding up quickly. You can check out a lot of fans’ efforts by clicking on the hashtag #Pitchin4DV on Twitter. I decided to join in and pledge $50 per regular season save, $100 per playoff save and $500 for every World Series save. It’s getting quite expensive but I’m glad that this form of fundraising is able to balance out the guilt that a lot of us have felt while rooting for Chapman on our team.
I also think it’s a good reminder and a good lesson: showing support for someone who has committed domestic violence or giving that individual a second chance is not the same as turning a blind eye or encouraging domestic violence.
As a defense attorney who has worked with a number of people charged in domestic situations, this is something I deal with on regular basis. I wholeheartedly believe in working to help victims and curb this epidemic in our society. But I also believe that everyone deserves to have their rights defended and to be given a chance to clear their name – or at least make amends and change their ways.
Now, I’m well aware of the fact that my donations represent just a small percentage of what Chicago’s domestic violence organizations need to help victims. But I’m encouraged by the fact that the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic had received $11,000 in donations as the MLB regular season ended. More money has been donated since the playoffs began. This is a win-win situation!
The Domestic Violence Legal Clinic provides legal services to low-income individuals throughout Cook County, and works to end domestic violence throughout Cook County and Illinois. Their current goal is to raise 1% of Chapman’s annual salary, and if all of us do our part, it’s still possible.
I encourage you, this season and beyond, to join us in the cause for a safer Illinois. Whether you donate a few bucks at the tail end of this season or make a resolution to donate next season, your efforts will make a big difference for many victims of domestic violence.
For more information on domestic violence law and what to do if you or a family member has been arrested on charges or the victim of domestic violence, feel free to reach out to my office today.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.