Thursday, January 15, 2009

Time to Stick Up for Dukes (Again)

Elijah Dukes apparently is behind on his child support (which is bad--Dukes should pay his child support). So it's time for another round of breathless, one-sided stories about Dukes and his past.

From Nationals Journal we get this brief summary:
When the Nationals acquired Dukes on Dec. 3, 2007, from Tampa Bay, the team that drafted him, they knew they were taking a risk. Dukes had talent; Washington saw that much last year, when he smacked 13 home runs, batted .264, and led all regulars in slugging percentage. But Dukes was also known for a history of legal troubles. He has been arrested three times for battery, once for assault. And in the spring of 2007, as Nishea Dukes filed for divorce, Dukes left her a voice mail that threatened her life and the lives of her children.
A few things they left out:
  • Two of his battery arrests happened when he was 13 and 14 years old. Because he was a minor, the details of these arrests aren't public, but we do know that 'battery' could mean that he got in a fight on the playground. And we do know that the first of these arrests happened about a year after his father was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Elijah's mom's cocaine dealer. Can't imagine why he might have been a troubled teen.
  • Dukes's "assault" arrest was for throwing a remote control at Gilbert. Charges were never filed.
  • Nishea Gilbert was once arrested for battery against Dukes--she apparently scratched his back.
  • He's never killed anyone, tried to kill anyone, or been associated with anything remotely close to an attempted murder or gun crime.
  • When Gilbert received the supposed 'death threat' text message, she didn't call the police. She called the St. Pete Times (which is what you do when you want to embarrass your ex-husband, not when you're afraid for your life).
  • Being arrested isn't the same as being convicted.
You can check out all the gory details of these incidents here and here.

It's important to note that he has been convicted of a violent crime in his life--just one, but a serious one nonetheless. He pleaded no contest to a battery charge for punching and choking his sister. I don't at all mean to minimize the severity of that crime by pointing out the bogus nature of the other incidents listed.

Whenever these stories get written, I wonder why the media is so bent on casting Dukes in the worst possible light. Why go so far out of your way to omit mitigating circumstances? Why present information in a way that it implies more than actually happened? Why is the word "JAIL" screaming in every headline when he obviously isn't going to jail? It's slanted, sensationalistic journalism.

Is Dukes a good guy? I don't know--never met the guy.
But given his background and family situation as a child, the statistics would say he's beaten the odds just to be alive and out of jail. Watching him on the field and listening to his rare press appearances, he doesn't seem like a sociopath. I read these stories, and it reminds me of the knuckleheads on Springer, not Rae Carruth. Really, I think this kind of smut doesn't belong in the papers at all. Just leave the guy alone.


Harper said...

"He's never killed anyone, tried to kill anyone, or been associated with anything remotely close to an attempted murder or gun crime."

Seriously? You're going with this?

James Bjork said...

Setting aside your "Dukes is a victim of whitey racists in the fan base and press" extenuating life-circumstances meme....

As someone whose father left when he was 8, and whose remaining single-mother household managed to get by in large part because my father DID pay his child support, I take this particular episode seriously. It is fortunate that Dukes has been blessed with a highly-compensated skill set to enable him to honor is procreative obligations.

JayB said...

Dukes is the best player the Nats have. I love to watch him....He plays hard and with great passion.

NONE OF THAT or anything else you dream up excuses for Dukes not paying child support for 3 kids he fathered out of near $400,000 he made last year....Steven, you are just wrong about who is the victim here!

James Bjork said...

And just to clarify, I *do* acknowledge that Dukes has been saddled with numerous psychosocial risk factors. I also *do* want the man to get his life together, and I hope that it will come to pass.

I suggest that you consider the gravity of this particular offense or episode on its own.

Steven said...

I said in my post that not paying child support is a serious thing. I'm not making excuses. I'm criticizing the Post for throwing out half-truths to establish a "track record" that is wildly exaggerated.

I think it's totally unfair to say that he's been arrested of battery 3 times and NOT say that 2 of those times he was a kid. I don't think it's fair to throw the mistake he made at THIRTEEN YEARS OLD in his face every time you want to write an article portraying him as a bad guy.

I think if you're going to slam him for battery arrests and then quote Nishea Gilbert as if she's a character witness, maybe you should also note that she's been arrested for battering Dukes the same number of times that he's been arrested for battering her. She's as much of a knucklehead as he is.

And no for all his scrapes with the law there's nothing remotely close to murder. Throwing an empty gatorade bottle or remote control at someone or getting busted for pot or driving without a license or having unprotected sex aren't admirable behaviors, but if you can't tell the difference between that and murder I don't think I can help you.

Harper said...

Huh. I'm not confusing murder with anything else. All I'm saying is that stating "He's never killed anyone" is setting the bar ridiculously low.

If you do something once and it gets brought back in your face 10 years later - that's the media being unfair. If you show a consistent tendency to act in a disgraceful manner - that's the media showing us the pattern.

JayB said...


You are avoiding the issue, you can not see the forest for the trees.....He is not paying child support when he makes $400,000 a year. This is note an issue of something he did at 13 years is a choice he is making today...after all the help and support he has been given....all the money he earned....all the perspective he has......he still is deciding not to support his own children.....that is the issue.....not murder......focus on the issue.

phil dunton said...

I thought the Nats hired a babysitter to monitor Dukes' activities and business affairs since he has been unable to act in responsible manner. Who dropped the ball?

An Briosca Mor said...
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Steven said...

Here's my point referencing the fact that he's never tried to kill anyone or been anywhere near anything like that. It's the "you dead dawg" incident, as usual dredged up by the Post. That incident has always in every article I've seen presented it as he issued a death threat and Gilbert feared for her life. I find that interpretation of events quite difficult to swallow. First, because there's really very little in Dukes's background to suggest that he's a killer. Second, she didn't even call the police when it happened.

If the press wants to go after him for not paying his child support, fine, do that. By going off about some fight he had at THIRTEEN YEARS OLD undermines the credibility of the whole thing.

BTW--that section of the post looks like it was cut and pasted from wikipedia.

El Rey said...

Unfortunately, Duke's antics are all too common in our society today. I hope I'm wrong, but years from now, we will probably hear about him being arrested for knocking over a liquor store. Dukes is a powerful man and I suspect he could kill anyone of us with that remote control he threw at his wife. I do hope he matures for his own sake and, more importantly, his children. The man has some baseball talent and could be a bigger star than Zimmerman. It doesn't help when the Duke's story is one of the few things we have heard about the Nats of late. The organization seems to be in hibernation. Where are the press releases, the interviews, the public relations, the big announcement of a free agent signing? Geez, the poor Nats can’t even design a nice new uniform. The new ones are an embarrassment. My wife was just telling me that several of her company's contractors have decided not to renew their Nats season tickets because they couldn’t give them away last year. Between the economy and front office incompetence, I expect to see attendance numbers plummet this year. At least I won't have to stand in line as long to get my yummy Ben's "All the Way" Half Smokes. Steven, any ideas why the Irish Bar on 8th closed? I'm going to miss their Powerhouse sub

CoverageisLacking said...

Steven, apparently you forgot about the time when Dukes choked his teammate in Durham for no reason. Or the time when he attacked Richie Hebner. More incidents that support an actual (not "exaggerated") track record. If The Post mentioned those incidents as indicative of his track record as well, would it be more fair? Or would it then be piling on?

Steven said...

Here's my position, and the last thing I'll say on this:

The Post should report the facts and not omit facts that don't fit into a pre-determined narrative. Dukes is clearly a guy with a lot of personal problems. He's done some really stupid things, and a few really bad things. All I want is to see these problems presented factually, not in a slanted, exaggerated way.

If they insist on mentioning "3 battery arrests," they should at least say that 2 of them happened when he was a minor. If they want to mention his assault arrest, they should also say that charges were never filed and that the "assault" was throwing a remote control, not what you usually think of when you see the word "assault." If they want to quote Nishea Gilbert, they should be clear that she has battery arrest on her record too. If they're going to say Dukes has had a lot of personal problems, they should acknowledge that he's had very, very unique personal challenges as well--poverty, dad in jail for murder, etc.

I think there's a clear pattern of presenting information in a way that drives an agenda, which is to portray him in the worst possible light, presenting only the most damning facts and omitting mitigating factors. If they report in a complete, balanced way all the facts, they won't be piling on.

As for the incidents you mention, I don't think it's fair for the press to mention it if he wasn't even charged much less convicted. At that point you're just trafficking in rumors.

CoverageisLacking said...

I don't see how it's "trafficking in rumors" to discuss incidents that occurred in a hotel lobby or in front of an entire team. You're setting a really high bar here in your defense of Dukes's character: arrests don't count if he was too young; incidents don't count at all if he wasn't charged. Seems rather irrational to me.

Personally, I don't have anything against Dukes. He is clearly a great talent, and I hope he can put things together both personally and on the field. (I do think his child support payment issues are inexcusable.) But we should be rational and objective in talking about his past, and you are not doing that.

An Briosca Mor said...
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JayB said...

I agree that the items that CIL points out are far from rumors...they are facts and witnessed by many....charged or not....what does that mean....he did them.....Many people have done many things that diminish their standing and if they never resulted in charges....that does not excuse them. Thin Ice here Steven…..very thin ice to set the bar so low for anyone….Pay your child support and this is no longer an issue….seems simple to me.

Steven said...

It's trafficking in rumors unless you were there and personally witnessed the events you're describing. The story, we're told, is that Dukes literally choked Richie Hebner and Ryan Knox. Literally cut off their air supply with his hands in an attempt to strangle them to death. And we're supposed also believe that neither Hebner nor Knox after these attempts on their lives even called the police.

Sorry, I just don't buy that story. It doesn't pass the most cursory smell test. The media likes a sensational story, so they latch onto the the rumor. But I don't buy it. What really happened? I dunno. Neither do you. That's what I would politely call a rumor, more likely it sounds like a mostly invented story to me.

JayB said...

Reality calling Steven......he would not have been suspended without pay and accepted that action if he did not do anything.....the pressure of the grip....ok I do not know and same with you......but you are really off base to say nothing happened unless teammates and coaches filled charges....that is not how really baseball players at this level deal with these issues...they do not run to the police...they cut you....just like the Rays did! Get a clue.

Steven said...

When did I ever say NOTHING happened?

I'm saying that the facts should be presented in a complete way. You're saying he definitely did something that is a very serious crime. In this country you're innocent until proven guilty. Now, if you want to say he allegedly did something, fine, say that.

If you want to live in a country where you're presumed guilty of a crime like attempted murder just because it was reported in the papers, then good luck but that's not America.

Again, my position is that Dukes has a lot of problems and has done a lot of bad things. It's terrible he hasn't paid his child support. But the press should report it straight, not omitting certain facts and exaggerating others. If you disagree, then fine. But you should stop saying I'm saying something I'm not.

JayB said...


Fair enough....but go back and read your righting prior to this last comment post...nowhere do you say "a lot of bad things" or "It's terrible he hasn't paid his child support" this is now movement and I can agree with these statements as a summary of what I believe if a fair representation of where fact lies and my beliefs on what he should be doing for these kids. Not that he should pay it….that he is terrible for not paying child support.

Steven said...

Sorry Jay, you're just not reading very closely. Here's the first sentence of my post:

"Elijah Dukes apparently is behind on his child support (which is bad--Dukes should pay his child support)."

In my post last Sept. on Dukes ( I called failing to pay child support "a serious crime."

For the umpteenth time, I do not condone, minimize, or excuse Dukes's actions, and I never have. I'm criticizing the media for presenting only part of the story.

I do NOT think it's fair to cite a crimes committed by him at 13 and 14 years old and omit the fact of his age. If you think that's fair, then we disagree.

I think it's unfair to present his litany of sins without also at least acknowledging the violence and poverty of his upbringing. Not that this excuses it, but it's a factor that must be included if you are presenting context (and that's the only reason to mention his past all--to establish context). If you think it's fair to summarize his life story with ONLY his crimes and NOT ANYTHING about the violent circumstances of his upbringing, then we disagree.

I think it's unfair to list Dukes's crimes and not Gilbert's. How many times have you read that Dukes has been arrested for battery against Gilbert, and how many times have you read that Gilbert's been arrested of battery against Dukes? They've both been arrested of battering each other once. Neither's been charged or convicted in either situation. If you think it's fair to ONLY mention his arrests and omit her arrests, then we disagree.

But if you disagree, then you're also disputing some pretty basic and well established tenets of fairness in journalism. There's no good journalistic reason for cherry-picking facts to fit a pre-determined narrative. It happens a lot in the press, sometimes with far more severe consequences (coughJudithMillercough), but it's not right. My objections to poor journalism doesn't make me an apologist dead beat dads any more than criticism of Judith Miller makes one an apologist for Saddam Hussein gassing the Kurds.

JayB said...

I have no problem with your beef with Post and Journalistic issues. My only problem was with your writing and that has come around to an acceptable level of criticism of Dukes for his actions and not paying child support and his violent behaviors.

You now are saying Dukes is terrible for not paying which is stronger than "bad, and a serious crime". I am very sensitive to this issue I guess but this is much more than just "bad"!

You now are saying Dukes "done a lot of bad things" which is better than your starting point that he had never been "convicted of Attempted Murder or Murder".

Dukes’ failure to control his sexual behavior responsibly and to take responsibility for his actions with a birth of his several children is not an issue of his youth it is a issue of the present….he is a 24 year old Man with a $400,000 year job with an employer that is going way over the top to help him, he needs to do much better than this.

I hope you see my point here but if not.....lets move on to your latest Baseball Post....Thanks!