Over a month after pleading “no contest” to domestic assault, the Nashville Predators have been silent on their fourth-line center.
On July 24th, Austin Watson entered a no-contest plea to domestic assault, stemming from an arrest in June where Watson was seen “swatting” girlfriend Jennifer Guardino, who had recently given birth to a child of theirs. Since that date, there has been complete silence by the Nashville Predators organization and, to anyone’s knowledge, Watson will be returning to training camp just like any other season.
Ironically, July 24th was also the media day for the Big Ten where the Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer denied and lied about knowledge pertaining to an domestic abuse arrest (not a charge) of Zach Smith. The Ohio State University immediately launched an investigation and suspended Urban Meyer for three games of the season.
Meanwhile, Austin Watson was not merely arrested for domestic assault, but pleaded no-contest in court. What does that mean? Watson entered a plea bargain where he is handed a mandatory minimum sentence recommended by the prosecutor in exchange for not having to publicly claim his guilt.
Why are the Predators still dragging their feet?
The past few years, the Nashville Predators have allied themselves with Men Ending Domestic Abuse (formerly MEND, now AMEND), even releasing the above video featuring Austin Watson. One would think that a fourth-line winger would be really simple to make an example out of, especially one that plead no-contest to domestic abuse. Yet, the Predators have done absolutely nothing and have been completely silent on the situation. They are undoing the goodwill that they built up over the past few years with AMEND. The organization is now looking horribly hypocritical. Where is the accountability?
Turning once again to the Ohio State University, Urban Meyer was heavily criticized for not addressing the victim of the abuse, Courtney Smith, in his interview upon his sentence being delivered. The Predators, although mentioning Jennifer, did so only briefly, saying “Our priority right now is surrounding Austin, Jen and their family with the care and resources they need to heal and move forward...”
“Instead of a resolution to a tragic situation for Jennifer Guardino, we are left with a narrative of questions, none of which have been answered.”
It should be clear that Jennifer is the victim here, but this statement by the Predators fails to recognize that important distinction. The emphasis in such a statement should have been on her. Cases of domestic assault and abuse are, at their core, about imbalances of power. The statement by the Predators places Austin and Jennifer on equal footing, ignoring the fact that one is a victim and the other is not. Similar to Urban Meyer’s statement, this is a not a good look.
Nonetheless, this statement was made over a month ago. There have been no updates by the NHL, the Nashville Predators, anyone. Instead of a resolution to a tragic situation for Jennifer Guardino, we are left with a narrative of questions, none of which have been answered. Perhaps the Predators are doing damage control, especially considering the Ohio State University dominated and “reset” the media cycle. However, not addressing the issue in a timely manner shows a lack of accountability by the Nashville Predators towards the seriousness of Austin Watson’s actions.
The Predators need to address this situation with Austin Watson, but it is almost already too late. Actions may speak louder than words, but silence speaks volumes. Unfortunately, this looks like a tale as old as time: a sports organization sweeping domestic assault under the rug.
Author’s note: if you live in Tennessee would like to help and get involved with the AMEND program, please check out their website and considering becoming an ambassador. If you don’t have time but would like to help, you can also donate on their website.