The San Francisco 49ers made a huge mistake by keeping Ahmad Brooks on the roster throughout this offseason, despite his alleged involvement in a sexual assault case with former teammate Ray McDonald.
Both men have been indicted in the same incident. McDonald has been charged with rape, while Brooks is being charged with misdemeanor sexual battery on the same woman, who was intoxicated at the time, ESPN reports.
The team sent Brooks back to San Francisco upon learning the news of this indictment. He was with the 49ers in Denver as the team engages in joint practices with the Broncos before the two franchises face one another in the third preseason game. General manager Trent Baalke issued a statement following the move:
“The organization is aware that a misdemeanor charge has been filed against Ahmad Brooks stemming from a December 2014 matter. We take any charge against a member of this organization seriously and are in communication with the NFL. Ahmad is returning home to California and will not participate in Saturday’s game.”
The problem with this statement is that the 49ers knew about this upcoming case for months. Given the team’s recent problems with other players, it would have been smart to get ahead of the legal system and just cut Brooks when news of the civil suit filed by the alleged victim were filed in May.
By itself, the civil suit wasn’t enough to make such a move. However, when you consider this wasn’t the first incident of alleged violence off the field, the 49ers should have never let things get this far with Brooks.
The team let McDonald go last year after determining he had displayed “a pattern of poor decision-making,” which also applies to Brooks.
His off-field problems began during his tenure at the University of Virginia, where he was eventually kicked off the team due to unspecified reasons.
The 49ers picked Brooks up off waivers when the Cincinnati Bengals released him in August of 2008. He eventually earned a starting role with San Francisco and became one of the leaders on defense.
Unfortunately, he also carried his off-field baggage with him to the Bay Area.
After a long night of drinking in June of 2013, Brooks attempted to drive home from the bar when teammate Lamar Divens pretended to throw his keys into the grass. Divens had actually held onto the keys but didn’t want his teammate driving under the influence. Unfortunately for him, the gesture wasn’t greeted with gratitude.
Instead, Brooks repeatedly hit Divens on the head with a broken beer bottle before punching him in the face. After all that, Brooks reportedly threatened to get a gun.
However, despite all that, no charges were filed, and Brooks didn’t exactly appear to be overly sorrowful in his statement after the attack.
“I have nothing to say about it right now,” Brooks said (h/t ESPN). “It’s a distraction to the team and I just want to move forward. It’s in the past. What happened obviously happened. It’s a distraction to the team, so I don’t think it needs to be talked about. It’s not about football, and that’s how I want to approach it.”
Brooks also said, “There was no apology needed.”
The 49ers were more than happy at the time to sweep the entire incident under the rug, which is exactly what the team has done until this latest indictment regarding his involvement in McDonald’s rape case. This isn’t new news to the team, but despite Brooks’ past indiscretions, nothing has been done.
Even now, the 49ers haven’t made any move to discipline Brooks, other than to send him home from Denver following the news, as Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported on Thursday, writing: “it’s clear based on their initial handling of the situation that they have not closed the door on him, yet.”
For a franchise that made a commitment to “win with class” after “mutually” agreeing to let Jim Harbaugh leave this winter, this isn’t a good look.
The 49ers should have never let things get to this point with Brooks. He should have been released in May when the first mention of sexual assault came into the forefront. Given his history of off-field problems, the franchise could have easily used the same “pattern of poor decision-making” claim that was the basis for letting McDonald walk.
That’s what should have happened. And you have to imagine if Brooks wasn’t a starter, the 49ers would have cut ties with him long ago based on his off-field troubles. This is the sick part of the entire equation. Because he can play, he’s being given preference.
Keeping Brooks on the roster, even now, indicates that the 49ers still don’t get it. Furthermore, the franchise certainly doesn’t have any right to the “winning with class” statement at this point in time.