(CW: Abuse, physical violence)
Jonah Keri has never been “a good guy.” At least not since you’ve known about him.
On August 30, 2021, Keri, a widely-known MLB writer and analyst, pleaded guilty to a host of criminal charges in a Montreal courtroom, including biting his ex-wife in the face, headbutting her and breaking her nose, and brandishing a kitchen knife while threatening to cut their unborn baby from her womb.
Keri also admitted to threatening to kill his ex’s father and brother if she ever told anyone about his violent abuse, as well as threatening to crash the car in which they were riding on two separate occasions. A source with knowledge of the case told Deadspin that the final incident between Keri and his ex-wife, who we have chosen not to name, came when Keri strangled her in their home. She was reportedly only able to call the police because the family dog came to her defense and attacked Keri.
Studies have found that abusers who strangle their victims are seven times more likely to eventually kill them.
Sentencing will take place on November 30, with Keri seeking to avoid incarceration and the prosecution asking for two years’ jail time, a source with knowledge of the criminal case told Deadspin. Since his arrest two years ago, Keri has not been allowed contact with his ex-wife or child.
When Keri was first arrested, the MLB community expressed shock and disbelief. Keri, author of a book on the Montreal Expos who worked for sites like The Athletic, DraftKings, Sportsnet, and CBS Sports, was a frequent guest on radio stations and TVs across the country. Always seeming affable and good-natured in media appearances, Keri’s male colleagues have privately expressed shock and disgust at his abusive behavior. But one subset of Keri’s colleagues were less surprised: The women he came into contact with.
“I mean, none of us knew he was beating his wife, obviously, but many of us knew he was a creep and a fraud with an ego the size of a planet,” one woman working in MLB told Deadspin.
Since Keri’s arrest in July 2019, many women in sports media have been privately comparing notes, with several telling Deadspin that Keri made them uncomfortable, and took advantage of situations in which he was alone with them. More than one woman recounted to Deadspin that Keri constantly bragged about how many women wanted to sleep with him and became sexually suggestive and even aggressive with them.
“It was weird and gross and also delusional,” one woman said.
“Everyone, it seems, has a Jonah Keri story,” another woman in sports media told Deadspin, after recounting two different occasions in which she felt Keri behaved inappropriately with her. The first, and while Keri was still married to his first wife, was when Keri followed her out of a party and asked her to kiss him. Another time, Keri showed up at her hotel when they found themselves briefly in the same town. The woman, who was just beginning her career when she met Keri, said, “He saw my weakness and he grabbed hold… I vaguely remember him saying he could try and help me get in touch with some big wigs in NYC when I was still trying to figure out what my next career move would be. I think he told me he would tell them about me.”
The friendship ended when Keri sent the woman unsolicited dick pics, then blocked her on Twitter when she ignored them, both apparent habits of his that Deadspin heard from two different women.
For Keri’s part, his lawyer, Jeffrey Boro, told the Montreal court that Keri was facing mental health issues at the time, and spent three weeks in a psychiatric ward after his arrest. Yet, after an investigation, Deadspsin was unable to uncover any reports of Keri threatening or getting physically violent with anyone other than his wife.
“There are no reports of road rage, no bar fights,” a source connected to the prosecution told Deadspin. And according to the source, several incidents of violent abuse against his ex, both charged and uncharged, took place moments before Keri did a TV hit for CBS, on which occasions he appeared calm, collected, and even jovial.
While Keri’s attorney will certainly try to make Keri appear a sympathetic abuser, his Jekyll and Hyde moods are consistent with those of classic abusers. In fact, the website for the National Domestic Violence Hotline addresses the issue directly:
A common assumption we hear at The Hotline is that abuse is caused by a partner’s mental health condition, for example: bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), narcissistic personality, borderline personality or antisocial personality. While these are serious mental health conditions, they do not cause abuse. Nothing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM 5) states that a mental illness solely causes a partner to be abusive in a relationship; however, there are a select few diagnoses that can increase the risk of abusive patterns to show up in a relationship and in other areas of life. Mental illness tends to impact all areas of a person’s life, such as work, interactions with friends, family engagement and personal relationships. In contrast, abuse primarily impacts personal relationships and typically not the other areas of life.
The mere fact that Keri was able to fool so many in the industry for so long isn’t a testament to mental illness being the cause of his abuse. It’s evidence that he was a run-of-the-mill violent abuser and nowhere near as special or as brilliant as he would have liked everyone to believe.
We reached out to Keri’s attorney for comment, but did not receive a reply.
None of the women we spoke to for this story were willing to speak on the record, out of fear that, despite how far he’s fallen, Keri could still harm their careers, or worse. Continued silence from men in the industry who — according to the women we spoke with — were aware of troubling stories about Keri, certainly hasn’t made sports media feel any safer. In fact, with as many anecdotes floating around out there about Keri as there seem to be, it’s bewildering that he managed to get increasingly higher profile gigs.
As MLB and those that cover it have a mini-#MeToo moment, thanks to the reporting of Katie Strang and Britt Ghiroli at The Athletic, among others, it’s past time for MLB media to reckon with its Jonah Keri problem. As one woman told me in the days following Keri’s arrest, “I’m waiting to see/hear if the men I worked with will call him out online or on their media platforms. So far, nothing.”
Two years since Keri’s arrest, it’s still true.
If you’d like to help victims of domestic abuse in the Montreal area, where Jonah Keri will be sentenced, you can donate to Women Aware/Femmes Averties.
If you’re experiencing intimate partner violence, call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text “SAFE” to the same number.