On one hand, the 49ers won’t tolerate domestic violence. On the other hand, the 49ers apparently won’t take action against a player accused of domestic violence prematurely.
“Well, right now it’s a legal matter,” G.M. Trent Baalke told reporters on Monday, via Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. “There’s such a thing called due process, and we intend on letting that play out.”
Asked whether McDonald, a key member of the defense, will play on Sunday, Baalke said, “Once again, it’s due process. We’re still in the fact-finding mode, trying to get as much information as we can. We’ll have more knowledge later today and certainly more knowledge the next day and moving forward. So, nothing has been determined at this point.”
The reference to “due process” suggests that the 49ers won’t take action against McDonald until the foreperson of the jury declares him to be guilty, or until the legal case is otherwise resolved. But other comments from Baalke indicate that the team may act before the court process has played out.
“We’re gathering as much information from as many different sources as we can,” Baalke said. “Who those sources are, I’m not going to go into detail, but we’re certainly gathering information. This matter is being treated seriously by this organization. Once again, I can’t reiterate enough, domestic violence is not something that will be tolerated within the 49ers organization, period. . . .
“I don’t know that we’ll wait for the court process. Once again, we’re in the mode of finding out as many facts as we can, talking to as many people as we can and trying to make the best decision we can for everybody involved: The organization, the player, the victim, everybody.”
Every team has a security detail, as does the league. Typically, team and league security consist of former police officers and other law-enforcement officials who know how to gather information effectively and accurately. Likewise, the 49ers have a unique relationship with McDonald. He can invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in court; if he tries that stuff with coach Jim Harbaugh, McDonald may find himself out of a job.
Whatever happens, it appears that the initial discipline (if any) will come from the team and not from the league.
“We’ve been in contact with the league on several occasions since this incident took place,” Baalke said. “And they know exactly the stance we’re taking and the things we’re trying to do to make the best possible decision we can. They’re guiding us but they’re not telling us exactly how to handle this matter. And the matter will be handled by the organization.”
That’s probably not good news for McDonald. The league, still reeling from the Ray Rice debacle, has an opportunity to prove that it now takes the issue of domestic violence very seriously. If the NFL is whispering in the ear of the 49ers on this one, the NFL most likely isn’t saying things like, “Take your time. Respect due process. Innocent until proven guilty. Suspend him for only two games.”