Worst time for 49ers' McDonald to allegedly commit worst crime

Worst time for 49ers' McDonald to allegedly commit worst crime
September 2, 2014, 12:30 pm
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The greater concern should be extended to his fiancée anyway. She’s the victim here, and forgetting that is to our shame.
Ray Ratto

Jim Irsay’s suspension -- or whatever it actually turns out to be rather than what it was announced as -- cannot speak well to Ray McDonald’s chances of getting the Ray Rice first-offender-who-gives-good-interview deal.

[NEWS: Irsay suspended six games]

Then again, McDonald may have put lots of people in position to stretch their vengeance muscles, whether they want to or not.

McDonald, who has been arrested on charges of assaulting his pregnant fiancée, remains free and a member in good standing of the San Francisco 49ers, and will do so until (a) his court case is adjudicated, as he has so far maintained his innocence, (b) until Roger Goodell gets to undo the damage the Rice decision did him, and (c) unless the 49ers beat him to the punch and do as Jim Harbaugh said the team would do and fire him with prejudice.

[RELATED: Harbaugh: Domestic violence will not be tolerated]

Either way, a lot of people want a piece of McDonald, and are lining up to get it.

We hesitate here to remind one and all that he might not have done this at all, because an arrest is not the standard for guilt or innocence on the moral and ethical planes. Actual guilt or actual innocence is in fact that standard, and always has been.

We also remind everyone that if he is responsible, the greater concern should be extended to his fiancée anyway. She’s the victim here, not him, not his team and not the National Football League, and forgetting that is to our shame.

We also remind one and all that because nothing is known about his guilt or innocence until a court of law says so, or until he says he did in fact do as he was charged, which would alter the need to wait for the legal system. In other words, the problem of figuring out what should be done must wait until it is determined what has been done, and what can be shown to have been done.

But we digress.

[RELATED: After Rice, NFL increases domestic violence bans]

The 49ers front office is likely to do nothing but kick the P.R. can down the road, as it typically does when wrestling ineffectually with the talent/tolerance scale. They can, but probably won’t, suspend him with pay, or dress him and not play him, which they also probably won’t. He’s either going to be used as he normally would, or he’s out entirely.

Either way, the team looks weak, tone-deaf and indecisive while seeing to it that Tony Romo gets all the quarterback pressures and DeMarco Murray all the fierce licks McDonald can provide. Goodell, who just barely resuscitated his own public image by throwing the pamphlet at Irsay, is not yet in a position to do anything more with McDonald unless for some reason Jed York wants to ask Goodell to take the lead McDonald’s discipline himself.

And York, and to a slightly lesser extent general manager Trent Baalke, is mostly good at not being seen at times like this.

But the spiffed-up and freshly-polished domestic violence rules -- or as we should all remember them, the “UP TO Six/UP TO Life” standard -- will get their first real test here if McDonald is found to have assaulted his fiancée as is alleged in the arrest. And the 49ers, already mocked for their weak response in the Aldon Smith case, will then have to test Harbaugh’s assertion that he won’t have a woman-beater on his team.

Which of course flies in the face of the team’s assertions that Baalke controls the roster and not Harbaugh, and could exacerbate their already fraying relationship.

In short, Ray McDonald has given a lot of people a lot of reasons to tee off on him, and if he is in fact responsible for such a heinous act, he has every bit of it coming. To repeat something a great man said a number of paragraphs ago, "The greater concern should be extended to his fiancée anyway. She’s the victim here, and forgetting that is to our shame."

But watching the battle to see who strikes first will be an interesting little tournament between three competing interests -- Roger Goodell’s image, Jed York’s image, and Jim Harbaugh’s image.

And hopefully, someone along the way will also take note of the as-yet-unnamed woman. That's not the way to bet this will work out, but it is what ought to be done.