Justice derailed: Chad Johnson and the domestic violence question

While appearing in court to formalize a plea deal Chad Johnson faced a new and unexpected challenge.  In 2012, Johnson was arrested and charged with domestic violence following an incident where he “allegedly head-butted his new wife during an argument.” Since then he has undergone therapy, and publicly talked about his failings, contributing to this plea deal where he was to avoid jail time.  In a sense, the court appearance was a mere formality.  Yet, that changed when Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh asked if he was satisfied with his attorney, that all changed

Chad Johnson: “Yes ma’am.”

Judge McHugh: “Well you should be. He’s an excellent attorney.”

Chad Johnson: “I Know”

As to further note his appreciation and affection for his attorney, Chad did what athletes, both professional and those weekend warriors, often do: he gave him a pat on the backside.

While others in the courtroom laughed, the Judge saw little humor in his behavior (watching the video it doesn’t seem as if Chad Johnson saw any humor either), responding in kind:

I don’t know that you’re taking this whole thing seriously. I just saw you slap your attorney on the backside. Is there something funny about this? The whole courtroom was laughing. I’m not going to accept these plea negotiations. This isn’t a joke.

Despite an apology from Chad Johnson, the Judge held firm, sentencing him to 30 days in jail.

In other words, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail not for domestic violence, not for head butting his partner, not for causing a huge gash but his “attitude” and “demeanor.”   Whether or not this was a smart thing to do or whether it was appropriate (watching the video, I think it is hard to see it as disrespectful) is surely up for debate, but 30 days in jail is more than a bit excessive.  And if the issue was the court, why not contempt charges for all those who laughed.

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless quickly weighed in on the situation.  Smith offered the following:

I can’t even put into words how disgusted I am right now at this man. This guy is out of the NFL right now because of his mouth, because of his absence of discipline, because he took things for granted. This show has been incredibly fair to this man, and you do the kind of stuff that you do, I can’t express how ticked off I am right now. You slap your attorney on the behind playfully in court? You are a BLACK MAN in court for headbutting your wife. A female judge is presiding over a case where you allegedly headbutted a female that just happened to be your wife, and you don’t have the common sense to know that you do not need to be in court playful about anything?? It doesn’t occur to you?

What is wrong with him? I don’t get it. I don’t understand it and it doesn’t make sense to me. All I know is this, you are officially a statistic for the next 30 days […] If that ain’t the height of idiocy, I don’t know what is […] “I don’t want to even say anything else. I’m scared of what else I’m gon’ say.”

Beyond the acceptance of a stratified criminal justice system, beyond the tone that positions Johnson as a stupid child, beyond the deployment of the politics of respectability, and beyond the issue being framed as one of “discipline,” Smith (and Bayless) do little to reflect on the meaning of locking someone up for 30 days for “making a mistake” or being too “playful in court.”

The sentence and the “First Take Duos” response seems to be based in this idea that Johnson was not respecting the court; his sense of entitlement was showing its face.  Those with power, celebrity, whether athletes or Wall Street executives, Hollywood stars or politicians, white college students or suburbanites are often afforded levels of privilege, impunity, and power otherwise unavailable to others. That of course isn’t available equally across the board, and race, class, gender, power and profession matter.  In this instance, it actually seems as if Johnson is being punished because of his celebrity, because of the presumptions about his sense of entitlement.  It seems that what he embodies, racially, what he signifies as black male athlete, black male celebrity, is playing out in harmful ways.  30 days isn’t nothing.

Most importantly, the Judge’s decision to punish him for his playful “ass pat” is yet another reminder that the criminal justice system doesn’t take the issue of domestic violence seriously.  He was punished with jail time not for domestic violence but for inappropriate behavior in court.   He isn’t being punished for his disrespect of women, for his perpetuation of violence, but for disrespecting the court, the law, and the powerful.   The fact that as you read the many articles in the press there is little reporting as to what happen in 2012 is telling.  The fact that the Evelyn Lozada is barely mentioned is revealing.  Little about domestic violence in this case and the broader issue; little about Johnson’s therapy.  We need to deal with the issue of domestic violence throughout society, and the judge’s decision not only feels excessive and the ultimate exhibition of power but worse it further displaces the domestic violence from the conversation.

In the end, it seems as if the court and the Judge didn’t take the proceedings seriously, didn’t take the issue of domestic violence seriously, since in the aftermath what are we all talking about . . . not domestic violence.  And that is the true shame.


NewBlackMan: Locked Out and Demonized: Challenges Facing the NBA’s Black Players

This has

Led to that

Locked Out and Demonized:

Challenges Facing the NBA’s Black Players

by David J. Leonard | special to NewBlackman

Deron Williams made it official, signing a contract with Besiktas, a top tier team in Turkey. While not the first NBA player to sign a contract as a result of the lockout, he is clearly the most high profile (superstar) to do so thus far. Others may follow suit, with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay and Stephen Curry all noting interest in the prospects of playing overseas. Having already written on the larger implications here, in terms of both the lockout and the globalization of basketball, what is striking is how Williams’ decision to sign overseas and the possibilities from other superstars has provoked a backlash from fans and media commentators alike.

Not surprisingly the patriotism and loyalty of players has been questioned, as his been their commitment to the American fans. Similarly, players have been criticized for being greedy, whose sole motivation is to “get paid” (the fact that players were locked out by the owners often gets OBSCURED – ignored – within these discussions). Yet, what has been most striking is the systematic questioning about these players willingness to play overseas. Recycling longstanding arguments about athletes as pampered, over indulged, and spoiled, a charge that has commonplace against black athletes, these commentators both question the willingness of these players to play in non-NBA conditions all while questioning their mental toughness.

For example, Berry Tramel, in “NBA players’ threat to go overseas is weak,” seems to question the seriousness of threat, asking if, “The players want us to believe they’ll sign on to play in venues and under conditions wholly inferior to the NBA standard? In case no one has noticed, the NBA is lavish living. First-class travel. First-class accommodations. First-class officiating. First-class training staffs.” Similarly, David Whitley, with “NBA stars would get rude awakening playing overseas” further emphasizes how the NBA lifestyle that players are accustomed to, would not be available to them in Europe or China. “It would also give players a taste of how 90 percent of the hoop world lives. It isn’t finger-lickin’ good. There aren’t a lot of charter flights, much less extra-wide leather seats or five-star meals.” In “NBA lockout causing European exodus?”

Umar Ali, while acknowledging the possibility of NBA players going overseas, focused on the horrid conditions there and the spoiled nature of the players themselves.

Though the accommodations pale in comparison to what the average player receives while playing in the NBA – five-star hotel rooms, luxury vehicle transports and catered food compared to second rate rooms on the road, cramped buses and whatever is provided for sustenance – there is still enough to sway players to consider making the transition.

Ali seems to be alone with the majority of the commentaries depicting today’s players as high maintenance divas who would not accept the conditions overseas. Skip Bayless, on “First and Ten,” scoffed at the prospect of the NBA stars playing in China or Europe longer than a week “because they will not like it. They will not like the conditions; they will not like the travel; they will not like the food, the TV they aren’t able to watch.” His “debate” adversary, Dan Graziano, not surprisingly agreed, adding “The lifestyle these guys lead over here . . . if they think that will follow them to Europe or Asia . . . it will be a very short period of time before they realize they were mistaken.”

Continue reading at  NewBlackMan: Locked Out and Demonized: Challenges Facing the NBA’s Black Players.