Aroldis Chapman is done serving his 30-game suspension under MLB's new domestic violence policy. A prized pitcher who was acquired at a discount price following his alleged October 2015 domestic violence incident, he'll join the New York Yankees Monday. Chapman will hear dozens of cheers this season as he strikes out batters, but the public has yet to hear an apology from the player for his actions on October 30, when he allegedly hit, pushed and choked girlfriend Cristina Barnea in his home before firing off eight gunshots in the garage while she fled to hide behind a set of bushes, according to a police report.
That was six months ago, and this week, he'll return to the mound without apologizing for inflicting domestic abuse upon Barnea. In a New York Times feature published Monday on Chapman, he declined to take responsibility for the actions that made him the first player suspended by the MLB for domestic violence:
Asked Tuesday if the suspension had given him time to reflect on what happened and consider changes to his behavior, Chapman shook his head.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “People are thinking that it’s something serious; I have not put my hands on anyone, didn’t put anyone in danger. Since I didn’t do anything like that, I’m not thinking about it. If I didn’t do anything, why should I think about it? That is in the past. Now, I’m thinking about more important things: my family, kids, my career.”
In fairness to Chapman, he has apologized for part of what happened, but not the actual abuse. When his suspension was announced on March 1, Chapman said in a statement, "I should have exercised better judgment with respect to certain actions, and for that I am sorry.” When pressed the following day on those ambiguous "certain actions," Chapman gave reporters a direct apology -- not to his victim -- but to the bullets he used in his garage.
"I want to take this opportunity -- I want this to be clear -- I'm apologizing because the use of the gun," he said, adding that he never harmed Barnea, who, in tandem with prosecutors, declined to press charges after she changed her story to match Chapman's.
His March 1 apology, however, misses the point of his suspension. Chapman may understand that firing his gun was wrong, but not why it's problematic. When handing down the suspension, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred explicitly stated it was based on (emphasis ours) "his use of a firearm and the impact of that behavior on his partner."
So although we don't know if Chapman caused any physical harm to Barnea, based on what we do know, Chapman's actions are still examples of domestic violence. He may not be a batterer, but the mental harm he caused to his partner by introducing a gun to an argument is nevertheless abusive. It's a textbook intimidation tactic to gain power and control over a partner -- it's hard to find a greater fear than knowing a bullet can take your life at any moment.
Ruth Glenn, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, expressed disappointment to The Huffington Post when asked about how cavalier Chapman seems to be about the incident.
"Mr. Chapman still does not get what domestic violence is, and that’s really more than unfortunate," she said over the phone on Monday. "Domestic violence is not only battery, but what he did was intimidation. If he doesn’t recognize that at a minimum, then I don’t think Mr. Chapman will ever take responsibility for an act of domestic violence."
Chapman has already seen two psychiatrists with expertise in domestic violence counseling, and will have to participate in a counseling program MLB is creating for him, reports the Times. So far, however, those meetings haven't altered his perspective. In the same Times article, Chapman adversarially remarked, "If I didn’t do anything, why should I think about it?" It's evident that he's not interested in a treatment-based plan to change.
"We had an organization that held him accountable and he’s still not taking responsibility, which is remarkable," said Glenn, who also commented on Chapman's suggestion that his ethnicity is the root of the whole problem. Last Tuesday, Chapman said that "we Latin people are loud when we argue" in another attempt to play down his October 30 argument with Barnea.
"He’s furthering a stereotype to minimize his responsibility," she said.
With no damning videos or photos, filed charges or consistent stories about the incident, Chapman will link up with the Yankees today as an All-Star pitcher — not an athlete blackballed as a legitimate abuser. He's not beholden to publicly apologize to his victim and to all victims of violence against women, but a return to the field without a show of remorse is a bad look for baseball. It's even worse for the ongoing cultural battle to see domestic violence as a complex issue that always needs to be met with serious discussion.
Chapman just isn't listening.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.