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Thursday, December 18, 2014

49ers' Release of Ray McDonald Is "Hugely Problematic"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Here's your "due process" Ray McDonald: You're fired.
  • Here's your "due process" Ray McDonald: You're fired.
If the San Francisco 49ers have chalked up one victory in this misbegotten season, it came yesterday. On the day Sony Pictures utterly capitulated to hackers who may or may not have been hired by this guy, the team unceremoniously jettisoned troubled defensive lineman Ray McDonald

That's great timing. 

McDonald is no stranger to area law-enforcement; he was earlier this year arrested on felony domestic abuse charges against his pregnant fiancee. Team management cited McDonald's right to "due process" at the time, and he continued to play downs for the Niners during that process. Ultimately, McDonald was not charged with a crime. 

And yet he was released yesterday without being either arrested or charged with a crime. He is purportedly a suspect in a sexual assault case being investigated by police — but, with the National Football League reeling in the wake of its oscillating mandate to coddle or crucify (alleged) domestic abusers, coming under police suspicion is enough to be handed your walking papers. Team General Manager Trent Baalke chalked up the Niners severe move to McDonald's "pattern of poor decisions." 

You can insert your own pot-and-kettle related analogy here

In any event, firing an employee who has not been charged with, let alone found guilty of a crime is "hugely problematic" says San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi. And this is a situation beguiling many men or women who aren't earning millions of dollars to play games. 

"Look at the statistics on investigations vs. arrests vs. convictions," Adachi continues. "There is a very low probability a person who is 'under investigation' is going to be brought to court much less convicted.

"When you start making judgment based on whether a person is being investigated, you are really disrespecting the process that is in place regarding conducting an investigation," he continues. "The purpose of an investigation is to investigate. Not to presume guilt or assume whatever complaint has been made is true and provable." 

And yet the 49ers, like Sony, seem less concerned with quaint notions of "due process" and more about the overarching mandate of the day: CYA. That is: Cover Your Ass. 

The team that signed Lawrence Phillips to a contract a decade ago and has been running a virtual South Bay Botany Bay for NFL arrestees has determined that its bottom line would now be better served by cracking the whip. The motivations for this are varied, but here's a safe bet: Altruism isn't among them. 

McDonald, who is fortunate enough to be one of the 12 percent of Americans represented by a union, may or may not file a grievance. Adachi notes that a "morals clause" in many athletes' contracts allows them to be discarded at a moment's notice. McDonald's next move likely depends "on how clear the language is." 

Asked for an analog to McDonald's situation for those of us without access to a grievance process or high-priced legal representation, Adachi brought up john-shaming programs in which men accused of soliciting prostitutes have their photos posted on police department websites prior to being found guilty of the crime. "This violates the presumption of innocence and places police with the power to decide who to 'out' and whose arrest to publicize and whose not to," he notes. 

Sports teams "should have some sort of a process, and, as scrutiny increases, they may tend to act more quickly. Unfortunately, that may mean the due process athletes should be entitled to isn't there."  

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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