Predators Sticking By Austin Watson After Domestic Violence Suspension
The Predators "started training camp explaining why they're keeping" RW Austin Watson after the NHL suspended him for the "entire preseason and the first 27 games of the regular season for domestic abuse," according to Teresa Walker of the AP. The NHLPA "plans to appeal" Watson's suspension, but the Predators have been "heavily criticized in Nashville for not commenting since Watson's arrest" in June. The franchise has been "very involved" with AMEND Together, a program "fighting domestic violence over the past few years." Watson was even in a "commercial against domestic violence for the program." Predators GM David Poile said that the team's players leadership group has "talked repeatedly with both Watson and his girlfriend, and players were in the room during the news conference as a show of support." Predators President & CEO Sean Henry when asked Thursday morning at an AMEND event why the Predators are keeping Watson said that it is "possible to both support Watson while fighting domestic violence" (AP, 9/13). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called Watson's behavior that led to his arrest "unacceptable," and the Predators said that they "'supported and worked closely' with the league during its investigation." Henry said, "We're facing this head on. We're not hiding from it. Even though it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, we're supporting the league's decision and Austin (and his girlfriend). And we're continuing our fight against violence against women. It's wrong. We know it" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/14). In DC, Matt Bonesteel notes the NHL is the "only one of the four major North American sports not to have a domestic violence policy, instead judging cases on a case-by-case basis" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/14),
IS IT WORTH IT? In Nashville, Joe Rexrode writes the Predators "sure are going through a lot of trouble" for Watson "without condemning his role in this awful situation." Had the team "bought out the remaining two years" of Watson’s three-year, $3.3M contract, they would "not have this as a potential distraction all season." Henry said that his organization will "continue its efforts to fight domestic violence -- efforts that have included more than $500,000 donated to AMEND Together -- and it should." But the decision to keep Watson will be "heard by many people as just another rationalization from another sports team protecting its own." The Predators have "decided to stand by Watson," but it would be "nice to hear more disapproval for what he did" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/14).