Marcell Ozuna’s MLB career may be over, but it doesn’t mean his life is

Illustration by Evan Koenigs | The Signal

When Sandy Springs Police officers arrived at Marcell Ozuna’s Sandy Springs home, they noticed a few things. The front door was wide open and someone was screaming inside. According to the SSPD report, it was Ozuna’s wife. The Atlanta Braves slugger was arrested on May 29 and charged with aggravated assault by strangulation and misdemeanor battery. 

During an argument over infidelity, Ozuna’s wife was scared for her life: he threatened to kill her before police arrived. When they did, they saw Ozuna grab his wife by the neck and throw her against a wall. He didn’t touch her again. If the two-time MLB All-Star never got into the batter’s box again, it could be hard to argue against. On the flip side, athletes have been in Ozuna’s situation before.

As brilliant as professional athletes are on the field, they’re human: they make mistakes. What Marcell Ozuna did on May 29 wasn’t just a mistake, it was something that the sports world has seen before, possibly to a much larger scale.

In February 2014, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s career was hanging by a thread when he dragged his then-fiancee Janay Palmer into an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. After an initial charge for simple assault, Rice received another charge a month later of third-degree aggravated assault. Later that year in September, the Ravens released Rice, who had already been suspended for the season’s first two games, after more footage showed him punching Taylor. The NFL claimed to have never seen the video of Rice and Taylor until September. Ravens owner Stephen Bisciotti apologized to the franchise’s fans, saying that the team “should have pursued our own investigation more rigorously…We didn’t, and we were wrong.”

Rice was voted as Baltimore’s most charitable person in 2012 and continues to still make sure he gives back to the community. He and his publicist, Deb Poquette, decided it was best to just work in silence rather than gloat––they felt others would see it as him crying for attention.

“The majority of what he did is not in public,” Poquette told The Baltimore Sun. “He’s going to continue to do good work. The fund still exists. He’s not going to start tooting his own horn just to look good. For every story people know about, there are 10 stories no one knows about.”

But that’s the thing about athletes nowadays: they’re always under the spotlight. Wherever they go, whatever they drive, eat and drink, people know about it. Ozuna’s realizing firsthand that what he did goes beyond just reflecting on himself or the Braves, it impacts millions of others. As of Sunday night, Ozuna has 215,000 Instagram followers. He doesn’t have a Twitter or an official Facebook page. But, Ozuna’s actions forced many companies to act.

DICK’S Sporting Goods in the Atlanta area are no longer selling merchandise from last year’s sixth-place finisher in the MVP voting. Ozuna, who last played on May 25, remains on the Braves’ 10-day injured list. His career, on the other hand, along with his reputation and image, may never recover unless he changes.