It was revealed yesterday, as reported by Paighten Harkins of the Salt Lake Tribune, that Real Salt Lake has placed Monarchs head coach, Mark Briggs, on an indefinite administrative leave as they investigate allegations of domestic violence. The incidents, alleged by Briggs’ former girlfriend Marissa Hankins, occurred during August and November of 2017. Naturally, the USL was quick to release a statement condemning domestic violence, and reiterating their zero-tolerance policy towards it. Real Salt Lake, parent club of the Monarchs, and Mark Briggs’ employer, on the other hand have chosen to respond to the publication of this news in a somewhat more mysterious manner. Furthermore, if the facts as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune are to be believed, RSL has shown a disappointing lack of ethical leadership in this situation.
Real Salt Lake did, in fact, release a statement:
"Real Salt Lake will remain in close communication with local authorities and MLS / USL offices throughout this investigation. The Club will not have further comment on this matter until the conclusion of our investigation, at which time additional and further disciplinary action may or may not be taken."
That kind of standard statement is understandable in business. I do believe in due process. However, where the story gets muddier is in the Tribune’s citing of an unnamed source close to RSL who told them that "the organization has known about the allegations for months but has thus far not punished Briggs because it doesn’t believe the domestic violence accusations".
Certainly this is all still a developing story as far as we, the public, are concerned, and we don’t have all the facts. Nevertheless, the optics on display here are atrocious. It would appear that RSL knew about these allegations, but quickly formed their own opinion of the facts and chose to keep this story quiet. Only now are they forced to act by suspending Briggs, and `investigating’ in the face of public scrutiny.
Recent news has been flooded with stories pertaining to the #MeToo movement, and along with that a #BelieveWomen movement that highlights the ways in which women`s voices have been marginalized, and the systemic ways in which various organizations, businesses, and society at large have chosen to believe the accounts of men, and discredit the stories of the women where there are allegations of abuse by the men. Certainly our system of justice must assume the accused as innocent until proven guilty, but the accusations also deserve to be weighed appropriately.
If Real Salt Lake was serious about getting to the bottom of these accusations through their own dubious investigative powers, they surely should have suspended Briggs and done all that when they first learned of it. And if they do have some factual evidence that has convinced them that Briggs is innocent, then they should have the courage to stand by that and there would be no need to suspend him now. Public scrutiny be damned. But they are caught now reacting to the story, rather than getting out ahead of it. In the very least they are guilty of some level of hypocrisy, having caught themselves sitting on the fence between two.
The unnamed source close to the team was directly quoted as saying, "We have not seen any fire that begets all this smoke." That is a quote I find telling in several ways, but particularly I find it ironic because the proverb it references is "Where there is smoke, there is fire." In this particular case there is an awful lot of smoke. In fact there is $60,000 worth of smoke.