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Jim Harbaugh on Ray McDonald and due process

When asked if Ray McDonald would play on Sunday versus the Dallas Cowboys, Harbaugh asked the media to raise their hands if they believed in due process. We look at what Harbaugh likely meant with this response.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh is a coach who stated he would bring "an enthusiasm unknown to mankind" to the 49ers, but he also brought a lexicon unknown to most people. He refers to his khakis as "armor" and his players as "trusted agents". As fans, we smile and raise our eyebrows when trying to figure out some of his jargon. We find it puzzling and bizarre, but that is Coach Harbaugh. It is part of the reason why most of us find him endearing.

On Tuesday, Coach Harbaugh reiterated his firm stance on domestic violence on the 49ers. Both he and Trent Baalke have spoken publicly on the subject, since Ray McDonald was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence early Sunday morning. Both Baalke and Harbaugh seem to be in agreement that domestic violence is serious and something they will not tolerate on the 49ers.

Yet, McDonald is practicing with the team. At Wednesday's press conference, Harbaugh fielded questions as to whether or not McDonald would play on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Harbaugh said the decision will be based on "information and fact." When asked who would make the decision, Harbaugh responded:

"I wouldn't concentrate on who," Harbaugh said. "What who is doing or who is making the decision. It's what's going to make the decision. That's information and fact."

Frustrated with the rabid questions surrounding Ray McDonald, Harbaugh weighed in heavily about due process. In fact, he made the media raise their hands if they did not believe in due process. Nobody raised their hands. It was a classic Jim Harbaugh moment.

Knowing how Harbaugh values history, he lectured the media of the due process protection under the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Whether or not McDonald is entitled to due process with regard to the governmental authorities seemed to be evading the question to the media. Yet, I do not think he was. Sure, due process is one of vital promises of protection the Bill of Rights gives citizens against the federal government. But, he was not asked about the law or McDonald's potential loss of freedom. He was asked about a football game.

Due process suggests a concern with procedure. Historically, the clause reflects the Magna Carta of Great Britain. It was King John's promise that he would act only in accordance with law and that all would receive the fair procedures. Simply, before a citizen can be deprived of life, liberty or property, the government must follow ordinary and fair procedures. And, part of those procedures is discovering the facts.

Harbaugh answered the question. Before anyone on the 49ers deprives Ray McDonald of his job, a certain amount of facts must be discovered and reviewed. Since McDonald is practicing, the team will not deprive him of his job and ordinary procedures will be followed, until facts arise which show he is culpable of domestic violence. By all appearances, there are no such facts available to the team at this time. As both Harbaugh and Baalke have indicated, if there were facts indicating such, the conduct would not be tolerated by the 49ers. Based on the analogy, it appears McDonald will play on Sunday and thereafter. At least, until facts reveal otherwise.