Here is a link to my Thursday column about the firing of Ray McDonald. The full text runs below:
The 49ers probably did the right thing in dumping Ray McDonald.
He seems like a troubled guy and his trouble seems to involve hitting women or worse. And the NFL just took a strong stance against domestic violence. The 49ers seem to agree with that stance, at least they do now.
See you later, Ray.
But something is disturbing about the 49ers’ action. This is not to defend McDonald. He appears beyond defending. The 49ers may be beyond defending, too.
The following serious criticism applies to general manager Trent Baalke who conducted a news conference on Wednesday to explain why the team got rid of McDonald. This column is about Baalke’s moral compass, or lack of one. This is not about Jed York because, as usual, Jed did not talk. It’s hard to know what he thinks.
The previous time McDonald got into trouble for allegedly roughing up his fiancée — last August — the 49ers stuck to him like Krazy Glue. We kept hearing how the Niners, those advocates of everyone’s Constitutional rights, believed in due process and wanted due process to play out. Until due process ran its process, they would allow McDonald to wear the proud 49ers uniform and play in games — he played in every game this season. For the record, I was in favor of due process and argued the Niners should sit McDonald but pay him while his case was being resolved.
McDonald got off the domestic-assault charge regarding his fiancée. The authorities never indicted him, although there were irregularities about police actions regarding him. But, OK.
On Tuesday, another charge surfaced like a Great White off the Stinson shore. McDonald allegedly had assaulted an unidentified woman at his house. The police searched his place with a warrant. At this writing, the police have not arrested him and no court has indicted him.
In our country, we believe in innocent until proven guilty. Serious doubts exist about McDonald’s innocence in both domestic-assault incidents. But he’s still innocent. That’s what the 49ers used to mean when they yakked about due process. They didn’t condemn McDonald the first time because they are proud Americans who have religious devotion to the Constitution.
So what happened this time?
They got McDonald’s butt off the team in a matter of hours and they kicked due process out the door. They didn’t even conduct an investigation — Baalke admitted that. Here’s a humble hypothesis why the Niners didn’t give McDonald due process the second time around.
Because they don’t need him.
When they were a contender, when they seemed to be a good team, the 49ers held onto McDonald for dear life. He played well for them. He was worth keeping and worth the due-process fiction. Now that the Niners are just another mediocre team finishing out a mediocre season, the Niners can afford to delete McDonald and delete due process. They couldn’t care less.
Let’s come back to Baalke. Baalke is the chief architect of the McDonald disposal, and Baalke raised the due-process charade in his opening remarks to the media.
“Well, this is unexpected. Welcome, everybody. I just want to inform everybody that after the recent allegations concerning Ray McDonald, we as an organization have notified him and his agent that he will be terminated, released immediately, effective immediately. While this organization has a strong belief in due process and has demonstrated that over time, Ray’s demonstrated a pattern of poor decision-making that has led to multiple distractions for this organization and this football team that really can no longer be tolerated. And that’s the reason for the decision that we made today.”
In his remarks, Baalke acknowledged due process in a specific sense. It no longer exists for him. Too bad for you, Ray.
Baalke claimed McDonald has been a distraction to the organization. “Distraction” is an important word. Certainly, McDonald was a distraction in the first domestic violence case when the team defended him to the death. Baalke could live with that distraction then, but this distraction is too distracting.
Baalke never said McDonald did anything wrong in the latest flap. “This isn’t about guilt or innocence in this specific situation because we still do believe in due process,” Baalke told the media. “This is about a pattern of poor decision-making.”
Well, actually, this should be about guilt or innocence. Excuse all of us for being picky, but if McDonald is innocent, why fire him? This is about guilt or innocence and only guilt or innocence and nothing else.
Baalke condemned McDonald for “a pattern of poor decision-making.” Fair enough. But McDonald is not the only 49er with a pattern of poor decision-making. Surely, you’ve noticed.
No. 99 isn’t so good in the decision-making department. No. 99 is Aldon Smith. No need to go over his sad history, but his pattern of poor decision-making got him suspended by the league. Ahmad Brooks and Chris Culliver have not been paragons when it comes to decision-making, either.
So, Baalke has a double standard. Maybe a triple standard. Maybe more.
Near the end of his remarks, Baalke said, “This is a situation that we can all learn from.”
What did we learn?
If you’re going to screw up on the Niners, choose the right time — when team is winning and it needs you.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn firstname.lastname@example.org.