Chicago Cubs infielder Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball on Friday after his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, published a blog post that detailed the years of physical and mental abuse she endured while married to Russell. Reidy filed for divorce from Russell in June 2017, a few weeks after allegations had surfaced in the comments of one of Reidy’s Instagram posts.
Melisa Reidy details years of abuse
Reidy told her story in a WordPress post on a blog linked to her Instagram account. In the lengthy post, she bravely details years of both mental and physical abuse from her “spouse,” whom she never mentions by name but says is an athlete. Reidy and Russell had been involved since she was 20; they had a son together in 2015 and married in 2016. The timeline of their relationship matches the timeline written about in the blog post.”
The first time I was physically mistreated by my spouse, I was in shock. I couldn’t wrap my head around what just happened…Why did he get so angry? What did I do for him to want to put his hands on me? Of course I forgave him & assumed it would never happen again. I just thought he had let his emotions get the best of him, he loves me and he’s sorry. I was deeply hurt that he could even be capable of this behavior towards me… As much as I tried to pretend it never happened, I noticed myself avoiding making him angry in anyway in fear of it happening again.
While most people think spousal abuse is physical, Reidy exposes the mental side of domestic violence. Reidy says that she was often made to think that everything wrong in their home was her fault, including Russell’s physical outbursts, which made her feel degraded and worthless.
Emotional/verbal abuse started way before I even realized, eventually it started to be an everyday thing. Being blamed for just about anything that went wrong, name calling, intimidating me with personal force, manipulating me to think I was the problem, destroying my personal things, threatening me to “send” me & our son home to my parents as if I was privileged to be living in our home. Basically, I felt like I was nothing, a nobody & I was nothing without him, & I couldn’t do anything without him.
According to Reidy, Russell would exhibit behavior that’s typical to domestic abusers: after an incident, he would profusely apologize, promise it would never happen again, blame his upbringing or other outside forces, but still find a way to make Reidy feel responsible. Eventually, Reidy said she began to sink into a deep depression and isolated herself from friends and family, because she couldn’t bear to put up a front for them and pretend that her life was fine.
Everything came to a head in April 2017. Reidy said that Russell “betrayed” her again, and it’s not clear if she’s referring to a physical incident. But she also found out that he had cheated on her again, which she said he’d been doing throughout their relationship. She finally got the courage to leave with their son. Not long after she moved out, she brought their son to visit with Russell, and what happened during their visit was the last straw.
But, as I expected our visit was a nightmare, I swore to myself it would be the last time he’d lay his hands on me & it would be that last time I’d let my son be a witness to it. A week after flying home, I finally made the call and took legal action to start our separation.
Addison Russell placed on administrative leave
On Friday, after Reidy’s allegations surfaced, Major League Baseball released a statement announcing that Russell was being placed on administrative leave, and their investigation into the domestic violence allegations would continue.
“Major League Baseball takes all allegations of Domestic Violence seriously. When the allegations against Addison Russell became public on June 7, 2017, the Commissioner’s Office’s Department of Investigations immediately commenced an investigation. Melisa Russell declined to participate in the investigation at that time. Our investigation of this matter has remained open and we have continued our efforts to gather information.
“With the new details revealed in today’s blog post by Ms. Russell, Mr. Russell has been placed on Administrative Leave in accordance with the Joint MLB-MLBPA Domestic Violence Policy. We are hopeful that this new information will allow us to complete the investigation as promptly as possible.”
The Cubs also released a statement in support of MLB’s decision to place Russell on leave.
“We take allegations of domestic violence seriously and support the League’s decision to place Addison Russell on administrative leave given new details revealed today. We will continue to cooperate with the League’s investigation so the appropriate action can be taken.”
Russell publicly responded to the blog post with this statement Friday night.
The Major League Baseball Players Association is releasing the following statement on behalf of Addison Russell pic.twitter.com/lQkp8GMdN0
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) September 22, 2018
What happened with MLB’s 2017 investigation?
The world became aware of possible domestic violence allegations in June 2017, when Reidy posted a (now deleted) photo on Instagram
— Jon Tayler, Smiling Politely (@JATayler) June 8, 2017
The caption reads:
Being free to be able to make your own choices for your own happiness beats being cheated on, lied to, & disrespected any day. #herestonewbeginnings #onlygetsbetterfromhere
While it only mentions being “cheated on” and “lied to, Reidy’s best friend appeared in the comments and said publicly for the first time that Russell had abused Reidy.
Wait Addison Russell's wife's friend saying he hit her? Ok that's actually bad news. pic.twitter.com/ezRFBJsmeE
— BWHullpenning (@BWH85) June 8, 2017
Russell responded to the allegations with this statement.
“Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful,” Russell said. “For the well-being of my family, I’ll have no further comment.”
The original Instagram comment triggered an MLB domestic violence investigation. However, Reidy declined to speak with MLB investigators. Her attorney responded to USA Today on her behalf:
“She gave it a lot of thought,’’ attorney Thomas Field, who represents Melisa Russell, told USA TODAY Sports, “but Melisa isn’t interested in legitimizing anything that doesn’t come from her. Ultimately, MLB has one reason for wanting to talk to her, but she doesn’t believe it would be of any benefit for her or her son.”
At the time, the abuse allegations hadn’t come from her, but from her best friend. Regardless of her reasoning, she had every right to not speak with investigators, and it doesn’t mean the accusations weren’t true. Knowing that MLB would suspend Russell if she spoke to them and found proof of abuse, she may not have wanted that to happen at the time, especially since she was starting divorce proceedings against Russell.
Since Reidy chose not to speak to MLB investigators, the investigation went nowhere.
What can MLB do now?
Under MLB’s domestic violence policy, Russell will be on administrative leave while the allegations are investigated. It’s not clear if Reidy will participate (and she would have every right to decline), or if they would even need Reidy’s participation to come to a resolution.
Once the investigation is complete, MLB will presumably do what it did in the cases of Jose Reyes and Roberto Osuna. The length of the suspension will be announced, and the time Russell spent on administrative leave will be included as time served for his suspension. Since the regular season has less than two weeks left, it’s not clear if an investigation can be completed before the playoffs start. That would leave Russell’s postseason status in jeopardy, since it’s also not clear if he could participate in the playoffs while he’s on administrative leave.
Beyond that, if his suspension is handed down before the end of the regular season, would he be able to participate in the playoffs if he’s serving a regular season suspension? Because as we learned from Roberto Osuna’s suspension, being punished for a domestic violence incident doesn’t disqualify a player from the playoffs.
Regardless, the Cubs and MLB can’t do nothing, and they have to do more than just place Russell on administrative leave. Considering the other PR nightmares MLB has had on its hands this season (like old racist tweets from young MLB players), they have to act. Especially since Reidy bravely detailed years of abuse from Russell, and not just one incident. MLB’s domestic violence policy is by no means perfect, but this is exactly why it exists.
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