UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery-domestic violence on Tuesday.
Both head coach Lon Kruger and the senior star offered the right kind of quotes for the media, but in reality the punishment is light, the crime is significant, and the larger message the whole incident sends about a lack of respect for domestic violence is disturbing.
First, regarding the punishment, Coach Kruger has chosen to describe the suspension as “10 percent of Tre’Von’s senior season.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal also quotes Kruger as saying, "The program has been damaged by Tre's actions. This is not insignificant."
If I had the chance to describe the punishment, I would not say that Tre'Von will miss 10 percent of his senior season, or even that he will miss three games. He will miss two exhibitions against Division II schools that aren't even counted by the NCAA and one game against a school that was a Division II school only 10 years ago.
If there are UNLV players or fans that consider their games against Grand Canyon, Washburn, and UC Riverside to either be “significant” or “10 percent of their season,” I’d love to hear why they think those games are.
Calling it a 10 percent suspension is an accounting fraud to cover up the fact that Tre’Von will play every meaningful minute for the Runnin’ Rebels this winter.
Secondly, about the crime, while Tre’Von disputes the claim that he choked his girlfriend for three minutes, I’m not sure how forcefully grabbing a 28-year-old's arm, taking her purse, and dumping it out because “she had promised me a little bit of money” is all that much better.
Tre’Von astutely points out that we have no way to ever know for sure. As most domestic disturbance cases are, this one comes down to a he-said, she-said. She said I was pushed and choked, he said I was only trying to steal her money and grabbed her hand.
Finally, what does it say about UNLV that they are so eager to categorize this as a regular misdemeanor crime and stamp a standard 10 percent suspension on it? Are they really going to tell the women buying tickets to see the basketball team play at the Thomas and Mack this year that because the local DA chose to not take a domestic battery case to trial their player made the same kind of mistake as a traffic violation?
Legend says the phrase “rule of thumb” comes from old English common law that allowed a husband to beat his wife as long as the device used was no larger than his thumb. It seems ridiculous to us today that any abuse was tolerated.
However, the message UNLV is sending to its players and fans seems to be that they condone their senior star players beating wives or girlfriends and trying to steal their money, as long as the courts reduce the charges to misdemeanor domestic battery instead of felony domestic battery.
Well, maybe they don’t condone it completely. After all, if their 22-year-old player assaults a woman and tries to steal money from her, they’ll miss at least one regular-season game for it.