A Red Sox outfielder becomes the latest professional athlete to be charged with
beating his wife, providing fresh evidence of the link between sports and
domestic violence. Community leader and ex-jock Don McPherson wants to stop the
by Jason Gay
It was late Wednesday morning, June 11, when Don McPherson heard the news:
Wilfredo (Wil) Cordero, starting outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, was
arrested and charged with assaulting his wife, Ana, following a Tuesday-night
double-header loss at Fenway Park.
Cordero's arrest was clearly the Boston news story of the week. Almost
immediately, the telephone started ringing at McPherson's modest office on
Columbus Avenue, where the former college-football star serves as director of
the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program for Northeastern University's
Sport in Society Center. On the line were assorted media personalities, all
wanting to know McPherson's take on Cordero's troubles. How should the Red Sox
respond? Should Cordero be suspended? Should he be allowed to play?
"Once I heard what had happened," McPherson tells a reporter, "I knew you guys
would be calling."
The police account of the incident at the Cordero home was, in a word,
revolting. Ana Cordero told police that her husband came home drunk after the
game and attacked her, striking her in the head with a telephone, choking her,
and threatening to kill her. Hours later, Wil Cordero was arraigned in a
Cambridge court on charges of assault and battery.
Reaction to the incident was predictably swift and furious. Pundits and
talk-show callers alike suggested that Cordero should never play again for the
Red Sox. But McPherson, while making no apologies for the outfielder, believes
the discussion of the alleged assault has focused too neatly upon Cordero, and
has not attempted to evaluate the broader issue of domestic violence in society
"It seems that people don't want to address the real issues of domestic
violence," McPherson says. "They want to talk about whether Wil Cordero should
play baseball or not. It's easy to talk and obsess about Cordero, because then
you don't have to confront the reality that domestic violence is everywhere in
This is hardly a typical jock quote, but then Don McPherson is no ordinary
jock. An All-American at Syracuse University and an established professional
quarterback, he voluntarily walked away from the game to begin a career
counseling young student-athletes. It was a stunning choice: three years ago,
still in his prime, McPherson put down his football helmet and committed
himself to community service in Boston, a city he hardly knew.
His timing was perfect. McPherson's work with MVP and Northeastern is
targeted at preventing the kind of abuses that too often land talented athletes
like Cordero on police blotters instead of sports pages. It is work that will
never earn McPherson the kind of money or accolades he found on the football
field, but it is far more satisfying to him than any trophy or stadium roar.
"These are different decisions I'm making now. These are life decisions,"
McPherson says matter-of-factly. "Before, I was making decisions that meant the
difference between a first down and not a first down. In the grand scheme of
things, those aren't very important decisions at all."
Jason Gay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.