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Problems of the police ties to Ray McDonald

In light of the recent news, I refer you to an article that brings to light some interesting points.

Ezra Shaw

Eric Adelson has a problematic, but ultimately interesting, take on the recent Ray McDonald news. I think it's worth a read.

At its core, the article expresses concern that McDonald seemed to have an unusually strong tie to the police - a tie which could be manipulated into an advantage. Now, I'm not suggesting that this is what happened. I want to be explicit: the district attorney's office reviewed the case, determined that there was insufficient evidence for a charge, and let the issue go. As far as any of us are concerned, this was the most appropriate course of action. We cannot know what exact evidence was available beyond what was in the DA's memo. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The issue I want to raise here is for how long we can continue extending this benefit of the doubt to the justice system in general. Adelson brings up a few cases of potential corruption (calling particular attention to the Jameis Winston case). He's right to do so. It's becoming apparent that football teams at the college and NFL level have a vested interest in manipulating police. I'm not saying that the 49ers are doing it; I'm not even saying that something close to this happened with the McDonald case. But, if you think that teams at the collegiate and professional levels aren't paying cops off either with money or work, then I have some super awesome real estate opportunities for you.

I don't bring this up to attack McDonald or to run his name through the gauntlet. He's a 49er; I want him to succeed. I don't like seeing people attack our players any more than the rest of you. And, because people with more evidence than I have deemed it impossible to determine his guilt or innocence, I'm not even going to try. I do bring this up to counter the notion that this was some sort of simple process that the 49ers, the police, and McDonald went through. It's not. By the nature of the accusation it isn't; and, it isn't by the nature of McDonald's status as a professional athlete.

So, when I see people calling for others to eat crow about expressing concerns surrounding McDonald's status with the team, I am made uncomfortable. I understand that due process is important. I ultimately came down on the opinion that, yeah, the 49ers should extend McDonald the courtesy of due process. I think they made the right choice. But, I'm not embarrassed to admit that I strongly considered the idea that they were making a huge mistake. I am really suspicious of people who argue that this is a clear-cut issue, ignoring the context that surrounds every case involving an athlete. Justice is more important than victories. As it currently stands given the revelations in the Winston case, for example, we cannot be certain that our justice system is really looking for justice. This problem is so much more complicated than people want to admit. The only people who should eat crow are those who ignored the context of this problem and then stuck to their context-less opinion (so, you know, ESPN).

This is a problem that will likely stick with the NFL for a long time; as fans, we have a responsibility to be informed and critical thinkers. We need to hold the institution in check when it's arrogance threatens the sport. I hope we can be responsible enough to do that.