Living locally here in the Bay Area and being a member of the media, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to be viewed as that “guy” who sits back and refuses to question something that a local team does. But I am not prepared to let others in the media give Sportsnaut and other sites a bad name.
Unfortunately for those who read local sports news here in Northern California, the same cannot be said about some San Francisco 49ers beat writers.
And head coach Jim Harbaugh took exception to questions posed to him by some in the 49ers media during a Q&A session that mainly focused on the recent domestic violence arrest of defensive tackle Ray McDonald (via the Sacramento Bee).
We all live in America, we all understand that sometimes patience is required when it comes to due process,” Harbaugh said. “But I think we all owe that to everybody that’s involved. There’s a respect for due process in my opinion.
Harbaugh gave this answer after being asked about whether the 49ers were going to be forceful in their response to McDonald’s arrest.
San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami took to his medium in order to explain the heated exchange between himself the 49ers head coach.
Harbaugh at one point wanted to make this a bit of a legal seminar — a very heated legal seminar — and asked if anybody in the room was against due process. Nobody raised their hand.
But this isn’t about the legal definition of due process. Nobody credible is saying McDonald should go to jail immediately or even be released by the 49ers without further information.
That’s perfectly fine, but the beat writer then expanded on his ill-conceived point.
The point is: 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?
Because no information between now and when the game starts on Sunday will change anything in the eyes of the 49ers or the National Football League for that matter. The organization indicated that it was working closely with the powers to be in New York City, Roger Goodell included, to figure out what the next step in the process should be.
By sitting McDonald before more information comes out, the 49ers are pretty much drawing the conclusion that he is guilty of crimes in which he hasn’t even appeared in court for. That won’t take place until the day after San Francisco’s Week 2 matchup with the Chicago Bears.
Here is part of the give and take.
-Q: Has a decision been made whether Ray McDonald will play on Sunday?
-Q: For you, what goes into this decision? What are the factors that determine this?
-HARBAUGH: Facts. Information.
-Q: Are you actively investigating this? Listening? What’s your involvement?
-HARBAUGH: I wouldn’t concentrate on who. What who is doing or who’s making the decision.
It’s what’s going to make the decision. And that’s information and fact.
-Q: Is McDonald preparing as if he’ll play Sunday?
-HARBAUGH: He is practicing.
-Q: Based on your stated views, strong views on domestic violence, is there any hesitancy on your part to have him in the building and preparing to play?
-HARBAUGH: Well, there’s two very strong principles in play. No. 1 is we will not tolerate domestic violence. And the second principle is the respect for due process.
-Q: Due process can take a while. Based on your conversations with Ray and what the team has learned in its investigation, are you comfortable if he plays Sunday?
-HARBAUGH: It’s something we all know. We all live in America, we all understand that sometimes patience is required when it comes to due process.
Nothing that Harbaugh indicated here is wrong. And it most definitely doesn’t fly in the face of his comments earlier this week that the 49ers will not tolerate domestic violence.
It’s the simple point that an individual is innocent until proven guilty in our open society. It’s the simple point that all facts that can be presented to the team should be presented to the team prior to said team making an ultimate decision on a player.
In reality, the 49ers must take action against McDonald should more incriminating evidence comes out. But that’s going to be the extent of it at this point. The NFL will not get involved until the criminal system has done its part. Whether McDonald remains with the team or is released will depend heavily on what happens in the coming weeks and months. Not what we know mere days after the incident.
When all is said and done (and IF McDonald is proven to be guilty of what he is charged with), the 49ers must act swiftly and rid themselves of him. Until then, it is about fairness and not jumping to conclusions.
Unfortunately some here locally don’t realize that. And it makes everyone in the media look bad.
Photo: USA Today