John Shipley: United supporters right about Agustin Rossi

A general view of TCF Bank Stadium during a a game between the Minnesota United and L.A. Galaxy on Oct. 21, 2018. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports
A general view of TCF Bank Stadium during a a game between the Minnesota United and L.A. Galaxy on Oct. 21, 2018. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota United’s fan clubs did a remarkable thing last week. Wonderwall, the managing group for smaller grassroots supporters clubs, asked the MLS team not to acquire goalkeeper Agustin Rossi because of a domestic violence allegation made against him.

Rossi, 23, has been playing in Argentina’s top league and an Argentine radio station has reported he’s on the way to St. Paul on an 18-month loan with an option to purchase (for $12 million).

No, thanks, says Wonderwall.

“We urge MNUFC to reconsider this potential transfer as this behavior is unacceptable and is not welcome in our community,” the group said in a statement released Tuesday.

Whether the Loons listen or not, the message is important, and one more sports teams need to hear.

“Wonderwall stands for an inclusive, dynamic environment for fans to support Minnesota United FC,” the group said.

According to a story posted by Argentine news site Minuto Uno last January, Rossi’s former girlfriend posted Facebook photos showing bruises on her arm and face. The web site also published several text messages, purportedly between the two, in which the goaltender acknowledges hitting her. One translates from Spanish to English as “You better not open your mouth if you do not want it to be worse.”

On Thursday night, Jan. 17, KPRC-TV in Houston reported that domestic-violence related homicides in the area spiked 38 percent in 2017. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on frantic calls for help to campus and Salt Lake police by Lauren McCluskey’s mom 10 days before her daughter, a track and field athlete at Utah, was murdered by someone she had briefly dated.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Thursday on former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy, convicted of domestic assault in 2014, starting a new career as a mixed martial arts fighter this month; on Thursday, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts told WSCR-AM radio in Chicago the team chose to “support” shortstop Addison Russell, suspended the first 40 games of the 2019 season after an MLB investigation into domestic assault accusations from his ex-wife, rather than cut him.

This is progress?

Pro and college sports teams have been taking domestic violence accusations against athletes more seriously, at least publicly. The University of Minnesota expelled former Gophers basketball center Reggie Lynch after investigating him (three times) for violating the school’s sexual assault policy, and P.J. Fleck recently joined other NCAA football teams by inviting a sexual assault survivor to share her story with players.

Major league baseball now has a domestic violence policy, and the NFL lengthened suspensions in the wake of an independent investigation into the Ray Rice scandal by Robert Mueller.

Yet in November, the Kansas City Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt for punching and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel – nine months after it happened. He played 11 games after the assault and was released only after TMZ posted video of the assault. Likewise, Rice was suspended for two games in July 2014, then essentially kicked out of football after surveillance video of the brutal punch was released.

In other words, the NFL remains amenable to sweeping domestic violence under the rug until the general public gets an eyeful of it. Then there are those fans who don’t much care: A Washington Redskins blog was recently published under the headline ”Reuben Foster is a Stud – Will he be Available to Help the Redskins in 2019?”

Foster was released by the San Francisco 49ers in November, and quickly claimed by Washington, after his second domestic violence arrest. With charges dropped on Jan. 3, the blog expressed hope that Foster would join the team this fall: “He will be a force at linebacker in this league for years to come – hopefully all with the Redskins!”

United’s most fervent supporters have no such blind spot and have used a powerful platform — the team has carved out 2,800 seats for supporters at the new stadium — to send a powerful message. Here’s hoping more fans follow suit.