In a disturbing story breaking earlier today, injured NBA star DeMarcus Cousins has been accused of threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend in a dispute over the former couple’s 7-year-old son.
Entertainment website TMZ first reported the story, alleging it had obtained “court docs and a police report filed” claiming Cousins made threats towards Christy West the day before his wedding to long-time partner Morgan Lang.
TMZ released a recording – purporting to be of a phone call between Cousins and his ex-partner – in which the threats were allegedly made.
“I’m gonna ask you this one more time before I take it to another level,” the man says. “Can I have my son here, please?”
“No, he’s not coming,” the woman responds.
“I’m gonna make sure I put a bullet in your f—ing head,” the man retorts.
Ms West has since filed a protection order request alleging that the 6 ft 11 in center also told her that he was going to kill her, “even if he didn’t have to get his hands dirty doing it,” and that he had choked her in a previous incident.
The Lakers – who Cousins is currently under contract with – are looking in to the reports, and released a statement earlier today:
We are aware of the allegation involving DeMarcus Cousins and, of course, take this claim seriously. We are in the process of gathering information and will reserve further comment at this time.
The NBA have had a similarly swift reaction.
Here’s the unfortunate truth for Cousins: the NBA takes domestic violence exceedingly seriously. If proven, his actions will result in a severe punishment from the league.
The Joint NBA/NBPA Policy on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse was implemented as part of the 2017 changes to the CBA.
Effectively, the policy (as you’d expect) prohibits acts that constitute “domestic violence”; a definition which includes physical assault or battery, but also behaviour that intimidates, manipulates,
humiliates, isolates, frightens, terrorises, coerces, threatens, injures, or
places another person in fear of bodily harm.
Clearly, the NBA has an obligation to investigate West’s allegations and whether there is enough evidence to suggest Cousins has violated the terms of its policy.
It almost goes without saying, but if Cousins is found guilty of a domestic violence misdemeanor, he will undoubtedly also be found to be in breach of the NBA’s policy.
Being found guilty is not a necessity, though. If Cousins was acquitted at trial the NBA would be unable to impose any sanction on him, but if the police and/or the alleged victim decide not to proceed with the case the NBA retains its power to discipline its player.
Even more unfortunate for Cousins is the fact that the policy lists the use of, or threat to use, force or violence and the presence of a minor as “aggravating factors” Silver is required to assess when meting out a punishment. Both are likely to be applicable here.
It is worth noting – given he almost certainly has more than a reasonable apprehension of criminal prosecution – that there is no obligation on Cousins to cooperate with the league in its investigation.
The list of potential sanctions is vast, with Adam Silver able to fine, suspend, or dismiss and disqualify Cousins from any further association with the league in the event the NBA’s investigation shows a breach of the policy.
Fortunately, we have only really seen one comparable case arise since the policy was introduced.
In 2018, Detroit Pistons centre Willie Reed was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after an argument with his wife.
The suspension also cost Reed $65,000 of his one-year minimum $1.6 million salary.
Prior to 2017, though, there is a little bit more case-history to look back on.
2017: Indiana Pacers guard Darren Collison suspended 8 games after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge against his wife.
2014: Charlotte Hornets forward Jeffery Taylor suspended 24 games after pleading guilty to one count of domestic assault and malicious destruction of property.
2007: Sacramento Kings forward Ron Artest suspended 7 games after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge against his wife.
Given the seriousness of the allegations against Cousins, and the visceral, overtly-public nature in which they have emerged, it is likely he is looking at something in between 6 and 24 games suspension and a large fine.
Cousins has averaged 21.2 points and 10.9 rebounds in nine NBA seasons with the Kings, Pelicans, Warriors and now Lakers. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract in this offseason, but tore his ACL earlier this month and is expected to miss most of the 2019-20 season.
If his career was in doubt when that happened, the future just got a whole lot murkier in the wake of Saturday’s news.
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