The NBA has been too soft on domestic violence. In the past month Kevin Porter Jr. — who is facing two felony charges tied to a domestic violence arrest for allegedly attacking his now former girlfriend — was used as salary ballast in a trade that sent him from the Rockets to the Thunder (Oklahoma City waived Porter). Then Charlotte’s Miles Bridges turned himself in following an arrest warrant for alleged violation of a protective order — including throwing billiard balls at the car belonging to the mother of his children while the kids were inside the vehicle. The day after he turned himself in, Bridges was back at the Hornets practice facility working out.
Before the season opener, Charles Barkley called out NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on the league's response to domestic violence when Silver appeared on Inside the NBA.
Charles Barkley confronts NBA commissioner Adam Silver after numerous offseason incidents of domestic violence among NBA athletes: pic.twitter.com/u0LjxLiLRd
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 24, 2023
Good on Barkley for putting this out in front of a massive national television audience. Also, good on Barkley for going off script and asking this question, it was not a softball Silver was prepped for.
Silver's response was tepid. It was soft. "So, we're addressing it. We have state of the art counseling professionals dealing with our players, but of course if a guy does cross the line, the consequences are enormous."
Enormous? Silver and I must define that word differently. Bridges pled no contest to a domestic violence case as part of a plea deal — accepting the consequences without admitting his guilt (to help in potential civil lawsuits) — and got a 30-game suspension, 20 of which were counted as having happened last season when he was out after the incident. Bridges has a 10-game suspension to start this season, where he is set to make $7.9 million on a qualifying offer. He was not put on leave and kept away from the team or team facilities.
Porter was waived and is now out of the league and likely will be for a while (the NBA can't suspend someone not on a team, so there is no action by the league). He will still make $16.9 million, the minimum he was guaranteed in his contract.
It's a balancing act for the NBA. The CBA requires the legal process to play out in any player arrest and for good reason in a nation where "innocent until proven guilty" is the standard. However, it's also possible to make a stand and show that domestic violence in all its forms is not to be tolerated. Bridges should have faced a longer suspension, and when the new allegations broke should not have been around the team. Between the Hornets and the NBA, it came off as a soft response.
For a league very concerned about its image, the NBA can't keep fumbling the ball on domestic violence. It has work to do. Good on Charles Barkley for pushing it into the spotlight.