Following the 2021-2022 season, Miles Bridges looked like a budding star for the youthful and exciting Charlotte Hornets. Bridges, the 12th pick of the 2018 draft out of Michigan State, averaged over 20 points, 7 rebounds, and nearly 4 assists per game, helping propel Charlotte to their first winning season in 6 years.
Bridges’ ascendance came to a sudden halt on June 29th, when he was arrested for felony domestic violence. According to TMZ, Bridges allegedly attacked his partner, Mychelle Johnson, causing her to suffer “assault by strangulation, brain concussion, closed fracture of [the] nasal bone, contusion of rib, multiple bruises [and] strain of neck muscle.” The alleged assault also occurred in front of the couple’s two children.
Following the incident, Johnson took to Instagram to share photos of her injuries, which showed a fractured nose, a bloody ear, scratches on her face, and bruises along her arm, back, and legs.
Normally, in a situation like this, a team’s front office would feel pressure to release the player from his contract. But in this case, Bridges was set to become a free agent the next day, meaning the Hornets did not have to make that decision. Following the allegations and arrest, no team has signed Bridges. However, this may soon change following the recent conclusion of the legal proceedings involving Bridges.
On November 3rd, Bridges pled “no contest” to the felony domestic violence charge, meaning that Bridges did not admit guilt to the allegation, but still accepted the charge as a felony on his record as well as any resulting punishment. According to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, the sentence does not involve jail time, but required three years of probation, 52 weeks of both domestic violence counseling and parenting classes, 100 hours of community service, and weekly drug testing.
There will surely now be NBA teams interested in signing Bridges, despite the ugly allegations. Holmes maintained that the NBA will likely decide to suspend Bridges once he does sign with a team, as it is within their right to do so under the Collective Bargaining Agreement because Bridges plead no contest. The upcoming suspension for Bridges could be lengthy. Per Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus, a similarly relevant occurrence transpired in 2014, when the Hornets’ suspended forward Jeff Taylor for 24 games after pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence. However, it would not be surprising to see a significantly longer suspension for Bridges, given the fact that he pled no contest to a felony (a more serious charge), not a misdemeanor (a less serious charge).
This begs the question: Will a team soon sign Bridges, despite the disturbing allegations and potentially lengthy suspension? The likely answer to this is yes, and the reasons for it unfortunately have little to do with whether Bridges deserves a second chance, but rather his ability as a basketball player.
The unpleasant reality of the professional sports landscape is that as long as a player can significantly contribute to his team’s success, that player will generally be given second and third chances—even when there is compelling evidence they committed violent criminal acts. In the NBA, for example, players charged and even convicted of serious crimes such as Metta Sandiford-Artest and Jason Kidd (both pled guilty to domestic violence) have been given second and even third chances to return to the league. Similarly, in the NFL, we have recently seen Deshaun Watson be awarded a record-breaking deal in terms of guaranteed money despite having 22 sexual assault lawsuits being filed against him.
These players, Artest, Kidd, Watson, and now Bridges, are similar in one respect: they are all impact players. Contrast them to someone such as former Bills punter Matt Araiza, who was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl while he was still in college. Shortly after the allegations became public, the Bills cut Araiza. Most teams would not consider Araiza, a punter, to be an impact player. Shortly after the allegations became public last August, Araiza was cut by the Bills. No team has signed Araiza since. It is difficult to imagine that Araiza will get another chance in the NFL.
For teams that sign these troubled impact players, it is obvious that they deem that the advantage received on the field/court outweighs whatever public criticism is leveled against the team. While it is certainly admirable to believe that people can change and very often deserve a second chance, professional leagues have shown us that the main indicator of whether a player deserves one is skill, rather than accountability and growth. We do not know whether Miles Bridges will play again in the NBA, but based on recent history, I suspect that he will be signed by a team very soon.
Robert Ricigliano is a 2L student at New York Law School. Robert is passionate about all sports, particularly how they relate to athlete representation and intellectual property.