SBD/September 4, 2014/NFL Season Preview

Goodell, 49ers Will Let Legal Process Play Out Before Deciding On Ray McDonald Punishment

McDonald was allowed to practice yesterday, despite his weekend arrest
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "won't be moving rashly to enforce the league's newly enhanced personal conduct policy and discipline" 49ers DE Ray McDonald following his arrest for domestic violence, according to Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY. Goodell said that he will "wait for the legal process to play out for McDonald as he would with any other potential first offender among NFL personnel." Goodell: "The first thing we have to do is let the process play out, get the facts, and make sure you understand all the circumstances." Pelissero noted McDonald's arrest came "just days after Goodell sent a letter to owners announcing increased penalties for personal conduct violations involving domestic violence or sexual assault." 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh yesterday said that he "does not tolerate domestic violence, but the team believes in due process" (USATODAY.com, 9/3). In S.F., Ann Killion writes this "isn't just a test case for Goodell's new policy." It is "yet another test case for the 49ers' moral compass." The team "failed pretty badly with its last prominent exam" regarding LB Aldon Smith. 49ers GM Trent Baalke "insists that the Smith and McDonald cases have no relation to each other," but "they do, because now Baalke and Harbaugh will be making the decision on McDonald." Though both have "taken a firm vocal stand against domestic violence, they don't have a lot of credibility when it comes to balancing the desire to win versus sending a message to a player" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/4).

ACCORDING TO JIM: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami notes Harbaugh yesterday took part in a "very, very tense media session" in which he addressed McDonald's arrest. Kawakami: "If you are a team with no tolerance for domestic abuse, why not announce that McDonald will not be playing Sunday's game ... while you gather the evidence?" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 9/4). Kawakami wrote of Baalke and Harbaugh, "I get it: They want to show that the team deplores domestic violence but they also want to support their player while the investigation goes on." Harbaugh "especially has been put in a bit of an ethical corner because his tough stance against domestic violence is well known." But "couching this in the context of due process is a giant moral dodge" because "nobody credible is asking the 49ers to cut McDonald or to put him in jail or even to suspend him without pay" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 9/3). ESPN's Jackie MacMullan said she was "pleasantly surprised by the harsh words" from Harbaugh about domestic violence. She said, "I thought, 'You know what, finally a coach is going to stick his neck out and do the right thing here.' I'll be really disappointed, and I'm sure many others will, if they decide to put a uniform on him" ("Around The Horn," ESPNews, 9/3). A SACRAMENTO BEE editorial asks, "How did the 49ers handle McDonald in the new post-Rice, zero-tolerance environment? Harbaugh let him practice." For the "sake of appearances ... Harbaugh might have excused McDonald from practice." But that he "didn't sends another message, that the NFL doesn't consider domestic abuse a real problem" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/4).

ENOUGH ALREADY: FS1's Ephraim Salaam said players getting in trouble with either the league or the law is "all we hear about" during the offseason and training camp. Salaam: "I know Roger Goodell is at home looking at his clock saying, 'We're about to kickoff the season. Please let's start playing these games so we can focus on the real NFL, and that’s playing the games.'" FS1's Donovan McNabb said the number of players who get in trouble "really puts a bad light on the NFL." McNabb: "All players are not like this" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 9/3).
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