As a woman, I can say with some authority that historically, sports have been incredibly unfair to my gender. Male fans belittle and question us, while many male athletes mistreat and abuse women they supposedly love. And for the most part, the leagues do little to nothing to remedy the plethora of issues that make women feel unwelcome and unsafe in the sports world. In fact, last week, two women resigned from the NFL’s Players Association-funded commission on domestic violence, the same group that was founded after Ray Rice was caught on video savagely assaulting his fiancé in 2014. The reason for their resignation? ‘Inaction,’ and a lack of “will to do meaningful reform,” said Deborah Epstein, co-director of Georgetown University’s Law Center Domestic Violence Clinic and one of the two women who resigned.
But with the MLB Draft last week, a story worse than most made the headlines, when it was revealed that one of the prospects, Luke Heimlich, had been charged for molesting his brother’s 6-year-old daughter back in 2012. The Oregon State pitcher was fifteen at the time, though the child told investigators that Heimlich had first molested her when she was four years old. He pled guilty to the crime – a written confession states, “I admit that I had sexual contact” – and had to register as a sex offender. He then had two years of sex offender treatment and two years of probation, but the 40 weeks of juvenile detention were suspended when he completed probation. Because the NCAA has no policy preventing convicted felons from playing intercollegiate sports, he joined Oregon State’s baseball team that same year.
Until the news broke, Heimlich was expected to be a top pitching prospect, ranked 44th in the draft by Fangraphs. Once his past came to light, he claimed in an interview that he was innocent, but had pled guilty for a deal he said “was the best option to move forward,” and also blamed bad legal advice. MLB teams quickly removed him from their draft boards, and when the draft was over, not one team had called his name.
Athletes are people who are born with special abilities; their bodies are gifts to them, and most of the time, they are aware of it and grateful. But by violating the body of a small child, Luke Heimlich showed, among other things, blatant disrespect for the human body. The mother of the victim told news outlets she was “appalled that [Oregon State] would even have him on their team.” That Oregon State keeps him around because he can help win the College World Series is abominable. Imagine how hurtful it would be for her to see him on national tv, being celebrated for his body’s natural abilities after violating her child.
Some things are and should be black and white: if you touch a child, I don’t care who you are or what you do. You deserve to be in jail or worse. There is no amount of apology or reparation that could ever make me forgive or trust a person who commits such a heinous and cruel act; they don’t deserve to walk this earth a free person, let alone reap the fame and fortune that come with being a star athlete. Luke Heimlich being drafted would be an insult to athletes who use their skill and fame for the greater good, but above all, it’s an insult to his young niece.
I commend the teams of MLB for making the obviously right decision, and though I hope this kind of situation never arises again, I hope they will continue to do what is right.
Photo: Sports Illustrated