As it stands now, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald will play for his team on Sunday. McDonald was arrested earlier this week at his home in San Jose, CA on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Per reports, he viciously beat his pregnant fiance, and the cops were called to his home at 3 AM Sunday morning. McDonald later posted bail. Currently, McDonald has not been charged with a crime. However, the San Jose Police Department did state that the female victim did show visible injuries.
McDonald’s arrest came shortly after Roger Goodell announced that the league would be issuing harsher penalties to players involved in domestic violence. This came after Goodell and the NFL had been roundly criticized for giving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice a two-game suspension after an incident involving his then-fiance. (The couple has since married.) Rice knocked out his fiance in an Atlantic City casino elevator and was filmed dragging her unconscious body down the hallway. Rice’s punishment was seen as extremely light, especially when compared to the fines and suspensions players receive for drug use, such as marijuana or PEDs.
With the league taking this step, it seemed natural that McDonald’s arrest would come under intense scrutiny. Head coach Jim Harbaugh suggested on Tuesday that McDonald would be off the team permanently due to this arrest. He told The KNBR Morning Show the following: “I’ll be very clear. You ask me how I feel about domestic violence. I can be very clear about that. If someone physically abuses a woman and/or physically or mentally abuses or hurts a child, then there’s no understanding. There’s no tolerance for that.”
However, Harbaugh is stuck with the unenviable task of giving a player on his team due process and appearing trying to toe the company line regarding domestic violence. Considering the backlash the league rightfully faced after the laughable Rice suspension, the league and its teams don’t want to once again present an appearance that they do not treat domestic violence seriously. At the same time, as of now, McDonald has yet to actually be charged with a crime. He was arrested, and it appears to all the world that he despicably beat the soon-to-be mother of his child. But, nothing has officially been filed yet.
The more conspiracy-minded among us would state that the Niners, already dealing with a number of suspensions and injuries that have decimated their defense, have possibly nudged the San Jose Police Department to hold off a bit when it comes to issuing any charges or even releasing additional information. Considering McDonald is a starter, they could really use him in the season-opening game. By pushing for as much of a delay as possible from the city, Harbaugh and the Niners can justify playing McDonald by stating they are merely waiting for more information to come out.
In the end, Harbaugh’s tough talk earlier this week regarding his disgust with domestic violence and how it has no place on his team comes across as completely empty by his playing McDonald. At the same time, even though it seems pretty apparent that McDonald beat his fiance, the team and league need to at least let an investigation take place before doling out a punishment. Regardless, it is not a good look to allow McDonald to play during the first week of the season after the league made a big deal about taking a tough stance on domestic violence.