The Carolina Panthers have decided to deactivate defensive end Greg Hardy. The move comes after weeks of public pressure to do so. Hardy was convicted of domestic violence in a 1-day bench trial. He was given 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence. He is currently appealing the verdict and will face a jury trial later this year at the earliest.
Naturally, this has the world talking about Ray McDonald and the San Francisco 49ers. As Mike Garafolo put it, they're basically on an island at this point. All indications are they will keep McDonald active. The national reporters have discussed this as a situation where it would appear the 49ers believe McDonald's story, and if he is lying they will then release him.
From a PR perspective, I get why people are making the comparisons. However, from the legal perspective, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. McDonald has been accused and would seem to be denying the charges. Hardy is appealing his conviction, but he was convicted. Adrian Peterson has more or less admitted to beating his kid, but is disputing intent. Ray Rice was caught on video, and there is really no doubting what happened.
Which leaves us with Ray McDonald. From a legal perspective, he deserves an assumption of innocent until proven guilty. From a PR and football perspective, it becomes a lot more complicated. The 49ers seem to be sticking to this idea of due process, but it will continue to look like supporting a player who helps them win. Jed York has said he is not concerned about that, and believes this is the proper stand. The PR stance would be to deactivate him (with pay, as opposed to suspending without pay), but they are taking the opposite approach, and will continue to get hammered on this.