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NFL, Ravens handling of Ray Rice situation leaves me conflicted

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The whole Ray McDonald situation has left me incredibly conflicted. I want to believe McDonald did not strike his fiancee, and I want to believe he's a good guy. At the same time, it's hard to provide a passionate defense of the guy when little is known of what happened. I can understand holding back until more facts are in, but as each year passes, it seems to get harder and harder to give the benefit of the doubt. I have stuck to it thus far.

Today, that might have changed a little bit.

TMZ came upon a second video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee. I have yet to see the video, but every description of it is that it is disturbing in so many ways.

The NFL claims they did not see the video before suspending Rice for two games. The Ravens claim they did not see the video, but rather that Rice had described the details to them in what they believed was a fairly accurate manner. Turns out that was not the case. As reaction erupted, the Ravens finally decided to release Rice, and that was followed by Roger Goodell announcing that Rice was suspended indefinitely.

While the Rice situation is separate from Ray McDonald's situation, the actions of the NFL and the Ravens make it hard to separate them. As many have stated thus far, the NFL has either proven themselves to be either incompetent or liars. Maybe this video was not easy to acquire, but with the money the league puts into investigating players, you're telling me it was impossible before this to know about and get this video? And even prior to this video, there was still the first video of Rice dragging his then-fiancee out of the elevator.

I bring all this up because it raises huge issues of trust for me as a fan with the operation of the NFL. Tim Kawakami is not a favorite among 49ers fans, but in a column today, he made some very valid points regarding these issues of trust:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens were either fools or they were playing us for fools, and it almost doesn't matter which one it was.
Now, at best, they've proven that they're doltish and lack all credibility.

At worst, they're something close to immoral.

Whichever it is: How can you trust this league or any NFL team to discover and then disseminate the truth about a wayward player ever again?

How can you trust this league or any NFL team to discover and then disseminate the truth about a wayward player ever again?

If you put your faith in these institutions, they will mislead you. That is not just the pattern, it is the rule.

Remember that the next time you think about trusting an NFL team when it automatically protects a player after an arrest-and oh yes, the 49ers are currently doing that right now, aren't they?

Remember it took the public release of video evidence for the Ravens and the NFL to face up to what Ray Rice really did.

The article does exaggerate a little bit, but the underlying point might be valid, and I strongly recommend you give it a read. The NFL has really not done anything to give us a reason to actually trust that it is not about winning and the financial bottom line. The league is claiming they did not know about the video, and yet TMZ's Harvey Levin has said he will provide proof the league knew and turned a blind eye. I realize TMZ has done some shady stuff over the years, but they have also broken quite a few significant stories. They brought down Donald Sterling, and they brought down Ray Rice. It is slimy to think about, but unfortunately sometimes they do actually get the news right.

And even if you remove whatever Levin produces on Tuesday, do you actually believe the NFL did not know about this video prior to Monday?

I imagine plenty of 49ers fans might be more inclined to give the 49ers the benefit of the doubt with their handling of Ray McDonald. Hell, I have given them the benefit of the doubt. But in light of the apparently shameful behavior we've seen from the NFL and the Ravens, that benefit is slipping.

Imagine if this was another team, would the same benefit be extended? Sure, we like to think that the 49ers front office is holding themselves to a higher standard. And yet given what we see happening in this league, should the 49ers really be surprised people don't trust that they will handle this situation with the highest level of regard?

What does this mean? Hell if I know. It is entirely possible that Ray McDonald is completely innocent. It is also possible he assaulted his fiancee. The police are still trying to figure it out, as the case has not been handed over to the district attorney yet. According to Mindi Bach, Ray McDonald spent two hours with police last Thursday discussing the incident. Given that it has only been two business days since the incident, my guess is it is taking some time to speak to other witnesses, and potentially get back any medical reports. It would make sense to see a decision on whether or not to press charges by sometime this week.

And whatever happens to Ray McDonald, this really is about so much more than that. It might not be fair to the 49ers and other teams that potentially do the right thing, but the league is not exactly giving us much reason to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I don't have any answers to any of this. I want the 49ers to be this beacon of integrity and that kind of thing, but the NFL has made it hard to believe this is not about anything other than money and winning. This tweet sort of summed up how I have been feeling about this. Whether it be concussions, domestic violence, or anything else, as the NFL increases in popularity, it finds ways to make it a little more difficult to watch.