San Francisco 49ers defensive end, Ray McDonald, was arrested early Sunday morning after officers responded to a domestic abuse incident at his Santa Clara home. McDonald, who was hosting a party for his birthday, reportedly got into an altercation with his fiance, who later showed police officers bruising on her body.
The NFL was notoriously and horribly lenient on the Ray Rice domestic abuse case that saw the star runningback receive just a 2-game suspension for knocking his fiance unconscious. After all the backlash Roger Goodell and the NFL received for their decision, the Commissioner had not choice but to ‘fix’ his mistake and institute a tougher policy regarding domestic abuse in the NFL.
Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.
“Effective immediately” has likely come much sooner than Goodell anticipated. Less than a week since the NFL’s statement to owners on the new domestic abuse policy, Goodell will have to put his money where his mouth is for Ray McDonald. To be clear, McDonald has not been found guilty, and it should not be blindly assumed that he is. However, if McDonald is found guilty of abuse, Jim Harbaugh has already stated the consequences: immediate banishment from the 49ers organization.
“I’ll be very clear,” Harbaugh said, per CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “You ask me how I feel about domestic violence. I can be very clear about that. If someone physically abuses a woman and/or physically or mentally abuses or hurts a child, then there’s no understanding. There’s no tolerance for that.”
Asked if the 49ers would allow a player guilty of domestic violence to stay on the roster, Harbaugh answered: “We would not. We can be very clear.”
“There are going to be two principles at play here,” Harbaugh said. “And one is, I’ll speak for myself, I’ll speak for the 49ers: We’ll not tolerate domestic violence. The second principle, we’re firm believers in due process. And I ask for your understanding on those two principles.”
I credit Jim Harbaugh for taking the high road here. It’s too easy to excuse a good player for a one-time mistake just as the NFL showed this offseason. It takes a strong leader to establish the type of principles on a team that set aside football or on-field value and focus on human issues. Whether Goodell lives up to his warnings or not, there is no mystery about the future of Ray McDonald. If he is found guilty, he will be looking for a new job.