As first appeared in Boxscore
By Aron Solomon
Nick Kyrgios, of the stars of the new Netflix tennis series, Break Point, is on the show for one reason: he is known as the bad boy of tennis.
Last week in an Australian courtroom, Kyrgios was spared a conviction after pleading guilty to common assault during an argument with his then-girlfriend, Chiara Passari, which took place more than two years ago.
The multiple delays in the trial were created by the Kyrgios legal team. Ultimately, following a Kyrgios guilty plea last week, the judge dismissed the charges, claiming that she was treating the 27-year-old Kyrgios as she would “any other young man.”
No matter the twists and turns of this case and the bizarre (at least from the American legal perspective) end result, Kyrgios has pleaded guilty to common assault against the person who was his girlfriend.
The ball is now firmly in the court of the ATP Tour, the professional governing body for men’s tennis.
I’ll preface the rest of this piece with a sad prediction: the ATP Tour will do nothing to discipline Nick Kyrgios. While some serious form of punishment is clearly the right thing to do, along with other athletics governing bodies such as FIFA and the IOC, the ATP almost always seems to make the worst decision.
According to the ATP’s own rules, that Kyrgios has pleaded guilty to the charge of common assault, and the context in which that assault happened, he should be disciplined:
As Attorney Adriana Gonzalez points out:
“When an athlete pleads guilty to a crime, any professional sports league has to decide whether their conduct violates the terms in the contractual agreements that regulate their behavior. Where it does, the league needs to be consistent in their action.”
The easy thing for the ATP to do here, which is why I and many other observers of the game believe they’ll do it, is to do absolutely nothing.
They can sit on the sideline and revel in the fact that the judge found it in her wisdom and mercy not to give Nick Kyrgios a criminal record. As an aside, a criminal record would preclude Kyrgios from being able to travel from Australia to several countries where there are ATP tour stops.
The right thing for the ATP to do – and they need to do it quickly – is to hold Nick Kyrgios responsible for neither more nor less than what he admitted to an Australian court of law.
Since Kyrgios pleaded guilty to a common assault against his then-girlfriend, the ATP needs to suspend him for a meaningful length of time, as there is no way that his behavior is not a violation of their own code of behavior and conduct. As to what constitutes “meaningful,” that’s up to you, the reader. For me, I can’t fathom that a suspension of less than a year makes any sense at all.
Of course, the ATP believes that suspending one of its most popular players would be shooting itself in the foot. The opposite is, of course, true.
The ATP, as evinced by the Sacha Zverev case that supposedly but doubtfully was thoroughly investigated, and at least for now was wrapped up last week. Is intent only on protecting its business model, not victims of the violence of their athletes.
And as we saw, in the first few episodes of Netflix breakpoint, as far as Kyrgios goes, that business model is to maximize all of the ways they can sell the personalities of the stars on tour, even to the detriment of the game itself.
People reading this will naturally assume that I fall into that large category of Kyrgios haters. This is incorrect, as I have actually written, here, about some of the good things that Kyrgios brings to the game of men’s tennis. But that article was written at a time, when there were only allegations against Nick Kyrgios, not when he admitted in front of a judge, in a court of law, to a serious violent crime.
If there is a place in men’s professional tennis for people like Nick Kyrgios, the ATP Tour’s long-term survival may be in doubt. How far men’s tennis has come from the lofty notions of fair play, camaraderie, and the finer ideals that the sport was built upon.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the chief legal analyst for Esquire Digital. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, Crunchbase, Variety, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.