Early Saturday morning in Los Angeles, Jay Mariotti was arrested for felony domestic assault after police found his girlfriend with “cuts and bruises“ following an alleged altercation between the two. After spending the night in jail, Mariotti was released on $50,000 bail and ordered to appear in court on Sept. 17.
The arrest follows a period of 15 years in which Mariotti, in his formerly regular CHICAGO SUN-TIMES column, harshly criticized athletes for their involvement in domestic violence against their girlfriends and wives.
In a Sun-Times piece dated January 3, 1996, and titled, “Nebraska’s Title Tainted by Phillips’ Participation,” Mariotti wrote that Nebraska’s ‘96 NCAA college football championship was “tainted” because of a misdemeanor domestic assault charge against then-Cornhuskers star Lawrence Phillips. Excerpt:
Dr. Tom would like his program stamped as a dynasty today, the first team to repeat as unanimous national champions in 40 years, the team that dented history and deflated Steve Spurrier’s little-boy ego on the same night.
The 62-24 thrashing of Florida was only a footnote to a deplorable sight in the (Ad Space Here) Fiesta Bowl. That vision would be Lawrence Phillips, running free in the desert, galloping for 165 yards and three scores and playing the hero’s role. Assuredly, this fellow is no hero. At a time when domestic violence never has been a more pressing issue - and largely involves the sporting genre - Phillips begins the new year as a horrid symbol of why the problem still isn’t taken seriously enough.
Pummel the girl, play in the big game, do your touchdown moonwalk, revive your pro career. Afterward, say, “I knew we would wear them down. It feels good to be with my team and win another national championship.” What a fine statement for young America.
Of Phillips Mariotti wrote:
If we can give Phillips some credit for facing the national media and our questions, we give him little credit for his answers. Osborne’s few backers in this case will say he is trying to save a kid’s life. But why, when other societal offenders must pay penance, should Phillips get such a huge break?
On July 21, 1998, Mariotti assailed the Chicago White Sox for signing Albert Belle in part because of a pending domestic violence charge against Belle. Excerpt:
Fifty-five million dollars. How many hungry children could be fed for $55 million? How many lousy roads could be fixed for $55 million? How many air conditioners could be installed in sweltering city apartments for $55 million? How many schools could be renovated for $55 million?
The White Sox spent $55 million on Albert Belle. Never has it seemed a more tragic waste of money than today. Where has this grand investment taken them? How has it benefited the team’s sagging relationship with the community? They’ve been a lame club since he arrived. Only recently has he begun to produce like a big-time power hitter. He has been a colossal jerk in the clubhouse, anathema to Sox fans who tried to like him but gave up.
And now, we have the first Chicago-related allegation that he has become what his surly reputation suggested.
A menace to society.
With a convicted wife-beater playing first base and enough public-relations problems to threaten their extinction, the last thing the Sox needed was an off-the-field incident involving Belle. Now they have that albatross, too, after the temperamental, ever-troubled slugger allegedly punched a 25-year-old woman in the back, twisted her arm, knocked her to the floor and ripped a telephone cord out of the wall as she attempted to call 911 for help. When she tried to rise, assistant state’s attorney David Coleman said, Belle pushed her back down.
Sends shivers up your spine, doesn’t it?
The Belle signing followed the White Sox’s decision to sign Wilfredo Cordero, who was also cited in the past for domestic violence against his partner, which Mariotti noted:
He and Reinsdorf better be careful. It is one thing to give Wil Cordero a final chance after his history of domestic abuse. But to have two players with the same problem, if the Belle allegations prove true, would be devastating to a franchise that has hit rock bottom in credibility. The nerve of Reinsdorf to keep using two gimmicks to bring in fans.
Earlier, on April 9, 1998, Mariotti had written of Cordero in the Sun-Times:
The public has it all wrong, Wil Cordero said. He is not the man we think he is. “They make it seem like I’m the kind of guy who will go home after the game and beat my wife,” he said. “But that’s not who I am. That’s not the kind of person I am.”
No? Then who was the person who admitted to beating his wife last June in Boston? The person who, police say, left dried blood on his wife’s nose and red marks on her throat and arms? The person who allegedly threatened to kill her as the authorities hauled him away? The person who pleaded guilty to four charges, including felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon?
It was you, Wilfredo Cordero. In a matter of days, he will be heading to Chicago, eager to deliver timely hits and play first base for the White Sox. And accompanying Cordero will be the woman he hit, Ana Echevarria, who is trying to rebuild their marriage after the frightening episode of domestic abuse and allegations of other incidents.
Suddenly, a baseball franchise already battling apathy and disarray now has saddled its community with a serious social issue: whether an admitted wife beater, who has been accused by two other women of abusing them, can avoid problems this year in a local residence that also will include the couple’s newborn son.
He will arrive before month’s end. A bad idea is about to happen.
Still earlier, on March 24, 1998, Mariotti wrote of Cordero:
Welcome to Chicago, city of no conscience. Welcome to Chicago, where an admitted wife-beater can become an instant hero by wrapping those same fists around a fastball. Once upon a time, we were best known for pizza, architecture, Michael Jordan, nightlife, neighborhoods, TV skits, a big lake.
Not anymore. Today, we are known as the halfway house for wayward, troubled athletes with horrible tempers and wicked manners. Give us your domestic abusers, your trick-or-treat attackers, your head-butters, your drug-users, your ref-terrorists, your bat- corkers, your groin-kickers, your spectator-punchers, your .44 Magnum-carriers.
The civic track record is why Jerry Reinsdorf can pursue a proven menace like Wil Cordero, regretfully signed Monday by the White Sox, when owners in other towns are too dignified and respectful of the citizenry to try. You might think it’s a coy sort of forgiveness, taking problematic athletes into your bosom and dealing with Dennis Rodman and Albert Belle, Tony Phillips and Bryan Cox, Pippen and Bob Probert and, in a sadder sense, Alonzo Spellman.
I call it crude ignorance, frightening shallow-mindedness, a peculiar permissiveness that has been allowed to hit rock-bottom.
A trend is now a full-blown epidemic with fangs. The aforementioned problem children are mostly saints compared to Cordero, who pleaded guilty in November to charges of assaulting and threatening his wife, Ana, in a June disturbance that left her nose a bloody mess.
Two days later, March 26, 1998, Mariotti wrote of the Bears contemplating the drafting of Randy Moss:
The timing of Wil Cordero couldn’t be worse. Randy Moss knows. He has been trying, with a precise public-relations plan, to convince Chicago he won’t be a menace to society if the Bears draft him. You know, that he has matured since allegedly striking the mother of his daughter, stomping a student in a race-related brawl, smoking pot and serving 93 days in jail.
But now comes the outrageously irresponsible signing of Cordero, an admitted wife-beater who joins the White Sox today. And with it comes the reality that the Bears, already riding the morality fence on Moss, cannot choose him with the fifth selection of the first round without a horrific outcry.
Then there’s what Mariotti wrote of Moss and the fans of Chicago on Dec. 23, 1997:
Or a wickedly talented gamebreaker (Moss), possibly of Jerry Rice’s caliber, who served jail time for kicking a kid to smithereens, got bounced out of Notre Dame, violated his probation by smoking pot, did the near-impossible and got bounced out of Florida State, claims to truly hate people, assures “the hate’s always going to be there,” was charged with domestic battery against the mother of his baby daughter and donned wraparound shades for a stately Heisman Trophy ceremony watched by millions?
We know what the fans want. Evil. Always willing to compromise ethics for the thrill of victory, always ready to grant clemency to anyone who can help Chicago win a game, the people want the problem child.
On Dec. 6, 2005, Mariotti noted of Milton Bradley and the Cubs:
A destination? Truth be told, the North Side has become a place of desperation. Why else would an embarrassed Hendry and a dazed Dusty Baker shift their anxious sights to the troubled Milton Bradley, not exactly Tribune Co.’s next Employee of the Month?
(Bradley) reportedly had his home visited three times last summer by police investigating domestic-violence claims, one in which Bradley allegedly choked his pregnant wife, bloodied her lip and threw a cell phone against a wall, though no charges were filed against him or his wife.
Of Corey Dillon, Mariotti wrote on Sept. 7, 2000:
The best college back is Deuce McAllister of Mississippi, a two-way performer who would be a sweet fit, but he’ll be long gone before the Bears’ usual middle-of-the-road pick. Dillon could be the prize of free agency, but not if he is reprimanded by the commissioner’s office in an ongoing domestic-violence case.
On June 19, 1994, Mariotti wrote of O.J. Simpson:
What about his no-contest plea to a wife-beating charge a few years ago? Alas, answers won’t be known until the trial, if then. O.J. Simpson should not be convicted or acquitted before then, no matter what is reported or said. Remember, this is America.
What made it crazier yet was Simpson’s reputation as a well-adjusted, down-to-earth celebrity. Other than the wife-beating charges, which may have been absurdly downplayed in the media because of his popularity, you rarely heard bad stuff about Simpson.
On the occasion of Scottie Pippen being selected to the U.S. Olympic Team, Mariotti wrote on July 31, 1995:
Never mind the message his selection sends to young hoop players: Toss a chair, quit with 1.8 seconds left, still make the Dream Team. Never mind what it says to society: Keep a loaded gun in your Range Rover, pile up police reports involving domestic abuse, call Chicago fans racists, still make the Dream Team. All the corporate suits know is, he can go coast-to-coast and jam better than anyone else out there. Make sure he’s in Atlanta, they demand.
Pippen is on the edge of 30. One of these years, you hope he grows up. Yet the last we saw him, not long before an assault charge was dropped by his now-former fiancee, he was speeding far above the limit on Lake Shore Drive, top down, shirt off. Hopefully, one of his current representatives will have a heart-to-heart with him before Atlanta. You know, don’t shame the country.
On May 9, 2003, Mariotti passionately defended Bob Ryan after the Boston sportswriter said he’d like to “smack” the wife of Jason Kidd - and then refused to immediately apologize. Excerpt:
Breaking one of my cardinal rules, I’ve been reading the Internet the last few days and have been astonished at some of the opinions.
But of Kidd, Mariotti wrote on June 5, 2002:
A domestic abuser is not a hero in any arena. When a group of crude, drunken fans in Boston taunted him with chants of “Wife Beater! Wife Beater!” last week, I felt bad that Kidd’s wife, Joumana, and the couple’s 3-year-old son, T.J., had to endure such courtside harassment. Victims of violence shouldn’t be subjected to cruel reminders.
That said, did I feel bad for Kidd?
This is the baggage he inherited, the scrutiny that never will fade.
Finally, just a week before he was arrested for felony domestic assault, Mariotti wrote - in a column for AOL Fanhouse - of recent punishment meted out by MLB in response to violent conduct by league players.
The piece was headlined: “For Acts of Violence, MLB Much Too Soft.”
Would it be unreasonable to suggest that with the aforementioned body of work, Mariotti’s credibility in criticizing athletes for violent conduct of any sort has been permanently impugned?
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