Addison Russell Avoids Specifics, Offers Scripted Apology for ‘Hurt I Have Caused’

Wearing his Cubs cap and a “Whole Squad Ready” spring training sweatshirt, Addison Russell sat before the media (full video) in Mesa to address his domestic violence suspension and ongoing counseling protocol. Despite cracking an easy smile when he first took his seat and smirking at times throughout, Russell appeared to be on edge during the Q&A.

His answers were halting at times, the kind of practice a skeptic might consider a diligent effort to remember a carefully rehearsed script. He certainly wasn’t reading directly from a prepared statement, but the frequently repeated talking points made it clear Russell’s camp had drilled him thoroughly for the brief press conference.

“These last few months have been a productive few months,” Russell said. “I’ve been doing the league-mandated treatment and also participating in voluntary counseling as well. Through that counseling, I have learned to better identify my feelings and emotions.

“Learning how to handle adversity and challenges whenever I’m faced with them, and creating healthier relationships with Melisa (Reidy, his ex-wife) and Mallory (Engstrom, the mother of his first child) for the benefit of our children.”

I’m not sure the words do it justice and I fully admit to having a more critical eye from being among Russell’s detractors, but watching this reminded me of how TV shows and movies will portray athletes as being unable to act. It’s as though he’d memorized a series of lines and was just cycling through them to decide which to regurgitate in response to the given question.

That sense didn’t improve when he was asked about why he initially denied the reports that he had abused his then-wife.

“I’ve had time to reflect and through counseling I have a better understanding of what domestic abuse really is. And I am committed to my work right now, that’s my main focus and already I see the benefits that come within that with my family and my children.”

Note that this isn’t a direct admission of any sort, he’s only that he apparently didn’t understand what domestic abuse was when he issued statements vehemently denying the allegations. Not that we should have expected any specifics one way or the other, as Russell wouldn’t want to spur any legal investigation into his past actions.

“My teammates have shown nothing but support for me and my family,” he responded when asked about how he’s been received in the clubhouse.” I think through this whole process, the person who has been inflicted the most in this process is Melisa.

“And what I want to say to everyone here today and also to her is that I want to own those action and I’m sorry for…the hurt that I have caused Melisa and the pain that I put her through. And I am trying my best efforts to become a better person.”

Pressed again about specifics of the allegations of physical and emotional abuse, he opted to swap more general statements in place of details.

“I don’t want to get into any specifics, but what I do wanna say is I am accountable for my past actions,” Russell said. “I’m not proud of the person that I was, but I do wanna own this issue and take responsibility for the hurt and the pain that I’ve caused Melisa. And for that I am sorry.”

Russell was again pressed on specifics and asked whether this meant there was no longer any denial of the allegations that have been brought forth.

“I wanna own my actions,” He said, parroting Joe Maddon’s slogan for the season. “I wanna be accountable for the hurt that I put Melisa through the and pain that she went through. That’s what I wanna own.”

Russell admitted to letting Cubs fans and the organization down and talked about how the work he’s done has already yielded positive results at home. His carefully curated Instagram account would seem to back that up. And, scripted or no, it was at least good to hear him say he wasn’t interested in using his upbringing or experience as an excuse.

“My past behaviors were wrong and unacceptable. And I’m doing everything in my power to become a better person. I realize through counseling that I am taking the necessary steps to become a better person.”

Listen, I could continue to transcribe the rest of this thing, but it should be evident by now that it’s pretty much a time loop in which the same canned responses are being offered up time and again. Of course, that’s often how these things go to an extent. What Russell presented Friday, however, was like a microwave burrito that was still frozen in the middle.

Although such an analogy indicates at least a little warmth on the outside, which wasn’t evident at all in what I saw and heard. It all felt very cold and emotionless, like someone who was trying to say what he thought would sound good to other people, but who wasn’t quite able to pull off the look. And while I certainly have no idea whether and how much the Cubs worked with Russell on this, it feels like yet another swing and miss for a PR machine that has taken a beating this winter.

Regardless of how poorly Russell came off and to what extent you believe this latest episode in their months-long shitshow hurts the organization, I must say that I hope there is some real sincerity beneath the thin veneer. That’s got nothing to do with the Cubs or with Russell’s continued ability to make millions of dollars playing baseball, it’s about him being a decent human being .

I truly hope that he is willing to get better for the sake of his children and the women in his life, because that is far more important than him getting back on the field in any capacity. And while I don’t believe the Cubs need to be part of that process as his employer, I do understand and respect what seems to be a genuine desire to be part of the greater solution.

Which means being open and honest about the topic of domestic violence, whether it’s with specific cases like Russell’s or the the general scourge in our society. It also means me writing about not being content with this press conference even though I can guarantee there’ll be angry responses from readers who feel it needs to be put to bed.

I’m all for second chances, but they need to be earned and not just handed out like candy at Halloween. If Russell proves that he’s truly a changed man, I’ll be more than happy to congratulate him on it.

But as much as I’m sure the Cubs — or at least Russell — felt Friday’s Q&A session put paid to the matter, it’s far from over. It’ll actually never be over if you view the rehabilitation of his character in the same manner as an addict practicing sobriety. You take it one day at a time and it’s hard work and you have to have people around to hold you accountable.

Though they’d tried in the past, the Cubs were unable to hold Russell to that standard of accountability years ago. Maybe there’s no way they could have, and I am certainly not indicating that they were aware of anything other than his love of the nightlife and his inability to keep it in his pants. But as this whole deal has continued to spiral downward, it’s fair to ask questions.

Maybe this brief presser represents the rock bottom of the whole affair and it’s only up from here. Maybe everyone involved looks at it and goes, “Wow, we really do need to do better.” After all, that falls under the umbrella of the whole part of the solution thing. I certainly hope that’s the case, because heaven help us if there’s more to go before it reaches bedrock.


  1. So – since I have attorneys in my family – as a client you are coached on what to say, what you can’t say, and to remain as emotionless as possible. I’m totally not sticking up for Addy because I wish the Cubs would just trade or cut him.

    But… he represented himself as an extension of his attorney. Leaning to either side of that fence would allow room for creative interpretation.

    There’s no interpretation here, though the analogy of the half-frozen burrito is spot on.

    Now the PR people for Russell and the organization’s spin cyclers will be tasked with restoring an image of accountability and the inference that he is and will be a growing product of lessons learned.

    The deserving part about it all is even if he does a complete 180, even if he becomes the most outstanding father and husband on earth, there will remain an attached hollowness to it all. For him, as a baseball player and a human being, anything perceived as great for others will forever be construed as average for him. Small price to pay when you make multi-millions of $$$.

    The sad part of it all is that Russell’s stigma will never match the load-bearing atrocity that he put his wife and child through. He may eventually recover. The other parties will not. Ever.

    1. Oh, totally, and I noted in there that he was never going to offer specifics for fear of opening himself up to legal investigation (which was part of a lengthy FB debate last night). But to me there’s a massive difference in being careful and practiced or just being detached and wooden. The way I put it on Twitter is like being at a wedding reception and hearing a bad best man/maid of honor speech; the delivery might be poor, but the sentiment is real.

      Russell is obviously not a public speaker, never has been, but falling back on very clearly scripted tropes made him seem uncaring. And I’m not arguing, because I think we’re on the same page here, it’s just that his delivery lacked anything that approached real emotion. There’s still a way to display humanity while remaining stoic. Maybe I’m asking too much, though when it comes to DV, you can be damn sure I’m going to require a lot of Russell and the Cubs.

      1. There’s no possible way this is going to end well for the cubs or Russell. I can already hear the excuses at the end of the year that the Russell thing put the team in a bad light that was hard to overcome. I guarantee you that there are some of his teammates that think he is scum and don’t want him around. Can’t believe Epstein can’t see this.

    2. They will recover. It’s the perp who is weak. I was in an abuse situation as a child. I recovered. The abuse doesn’t define me.

  2. Nice going Cubs. Have some cahones and cut him. You have enough issues with Joe Ricketts and the organization doesn’t need this.

  3. I don’t know what happened between Addison and Melissa. By the way – neither do any of you.

    If he is guilty of beating (physically or psychologically) I think most of us want to see him castrated. Preferably by Melissa herself.

    Funny thing though. He’s never admitted he did it. Never. He agreed to penalties. He agreed to counseling. Which – even if Addison wanted to tell a different story, was wisely advised to do because in this pitchfork and torch media environment would be a hopeless PR battle.

    And if you’re one of those brainwashed by the media into thinking that every woman is the victim, you need to watch the documentary called THE RED PILL by feminist filmmaker Cassie Jaye. Few people realize according to FBI data and most studies from Harvard, MIT and others – WOMEN are the aggressors in domestic violence incidents at least as much as men. One example is the 2014 stats (pic below) where over 600,000 more men were victims than women. If you’re an “equal rights” person, you’d then be a hypocrite by saying violence between 2 men should be treated differently than that of a woman who physically assaults a man.

    I’m not one of those or I’d be in jail. I had an ex who – when she was happy – had the charisma and looks of Gabrielle Union. The other times she was a vindictive, profane pro at verbal and physical attacks. One time she was angry and started by throwing a hot pizza at me. and then a phone at my head. and then coffee maker.

    When she started hitting me, the only physical response I did was to wrap her in a bear hug so she couldn’t keep hitting me. She called 911 and demanded for me to be arrested on domestic abuse charges, telling them ALMOST EXACTLY the types of things Melissa Russell said in her blog (except we didn’t have kids). I was smart enough to not say a word while she did her fake crying routine for a new audience. The police handcuffed me while they took her statement. I remained silent until they put her in another room and asked for my statement. I ended up my recount by asking them why, if I was the one who physically assaulted her – was there not a scratch on her, but I had welts, bruises and scratches on my head, arms, chest and torso. One female officer disappeared for about 3 minutes and suddenly I heard screaming from other room.

    She was put in handcuffs also. I asked why I wasn’t be released and they said – according to state law – they didn’t have the choice although (after thousands in bail and legal fees) likely none of the charges against me would stick. I was not given the presumption of innocence at all. Because of my gender.

    Tawana Brawley lied and was never raped. The Duke Lacrosse accuser lied was never raped. There are evil women out there and yes, there are also evil men.

    I have no idea if Addison is 100% innocent or 100% guilty. I do know that both Tom Ricketts, Laura Ricketts and Theo Epstein’s personal lives seem to suggest they don’t tolerate evil people. They also seem to be rational people who don’t make rash judgements. I’ve had a hard time believing Melissa not only because of my own past experience but because I truly don’t believe all 3 would agree to keep Addison on – at any cost – if there wasn’t more to the story.

    I saw my Twitter aflame with judgement when Jussie Smollett miraculously ran into two white Trump supporters in 5 degree weather who just happened to be roaming Chicago streets with a noose and a frozen bottle of bleach and – according to his media reports – was amazingly told by them, he was in “Trump country” – which certainly is not the sentiment shared by 80+% of Chicago residents. Now we know he didn’t say a word to anyone at his apartment, arrived with a Subway sandwich and the two “men of interest” that CPD were looking for near the scene happened to both be extra’s on EMPIRE. Smollett has now hired high powered Michael Cohen’s attorney (which victims don’t usually do.) Maybe all the evidence is wrong and Smollett is innocent. Maybe Addison was an absolute monster. I just don’t believe Cubs players, management and owners would all put themselves on the line for that.

    Derek Rose literally admitted to gang raping a woman in court – and yet Chicago has no problem celebrating him – many eager to see him return. Frankly – I don’t understand reactions from ANY side of this until we know conclusively – or a court of law has – what is really at issue here.

    1. You realize of course that the reason he’s not admitted to any of it is that he’d face legal repercussions if he did. That’s why he’s not sharing specifics. And Melisa (not Melissa) detailed several incidents of psychological and physical violence that were published by Expanded Roster. Had those allegations been false, both Melisa and Kelly Wallace, the interviewer, would have been hit with legal action. They weren’t. Why? Because the allegations are factual.

      And I’ll go ahead and let you know that there’s a lot more out there that will never come to light. Or probably won’t. While I’m sorry for your situation and for anyone who’s been falsely accused, no part of me believes that’s what’s going on here.

  4. I listened to maybe three minutes of it and wondered if my podcast audio was in a loop, honestly. Then I realized it was just going to be one of those press conferences where he talks like a robot with a feedback error. I didn’t waste my time.

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