There's Plenty of Blame to Go Around for Ray McDonald's Short Stint in Chicago

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMay 25, 2015

USA Today

Well, good thing the Chicago Bears checked with the mom of Ray McDonald, now accused three times of violence or assault against women, among other off-field issues. Sure, she was an unbiased source of information.

This was Bears owner George McCaskey on his conversation with McDonald after the team made the inexcusable and stunningly dumb decision to sign him just a short time ago:

He said, 'If you want, you can talk to my college coach, Urban Meyer, and my position coach from college.' And after talking to him I said, 'I think I'd like to talk to your parents.' And you need to be careful putting too much stock (in that). What would you expect a parent to say about their adult child? But the thing that impressed me after talking to them was the support system. They go to almost all of his games, even the out-of-town games. They're there for him. He came from a strong two-parent upbringing, which, sad to say, isn't all that common anymore these days. And even discounting what a parent had to say, I came away impressed with the support system that he has.

Was Aunt Bessie not available? What exactly was McDonald's mom going to say? "Don't sign him, Ray is a terrible son?"

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

This was a classic case of confirmation bias. McCaskey wanted to sign McDonald because McDonald is terribly talented. So McCaskey looked for reasons to acquire him instead of reasons not to. What better way to do that than talking to a player's mom? The next time a mom says something bad about her son would be the first.

This from McCaskey was also telling:

He talked about growing up and his parents and his playing career. And then he talked about these incidents which have become public knowledge. And he walked me through each one. And I donโ€™t want to get too much into the particulars. I just want to give you a sense of the conversation. And I was impressed with how sincere he was and how motivated he is. He understands, I think, that he could have well been facing the end of his football career. And he loves football. And he wants that career to continue. So I was impressed with his motivation.

The fact that he loves football is irrelevant. Someone's love of something has nothing to do with domestic violence or assault. Again, McCaskey was just looking for confirmation of his own beliefs. It would have been much more honest had McCaskey just said: "He's a great talent, and I'm going to take the risk despite his putrid past."

What happened next was predictable. On Monday, McDonald was arrested for domestic violence. This from the Santa Clara Police Department:

Santa Clara Police Officers were dispatched to a disturbance at the residence of Raymond McDonald in Santa Clara. Officers learned Raymond McDonald physically assaulted the victim while she was holding a baby. After the assault, Raymond McDonald left the residence and was later located on the 2200 block of Terra Nova Ln. in San Jose.

Raymond McDonald was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence and child endangerment. Raymond McDonald was then transported to Santa Clara Police Department and will be later booked at the Santa Clara County Jail.

...physically assaulted the victim while she was holding a baby.

The Bears released McDonald just hours after his arrest. This isn't just a stain on McDonald, who is a disgrace. This is a stain on the Bears for signing an alleged serial abuser of women after asking his mom if it would be OK.

The most predictable sentence ever written: The Bears released McDonald due to allegations of abuse. Wash, rinse, repeat.

And for the Twitter lawyers who say "What about due process?" remember, teams in the NFL, many times, have released non-stars after only one arrest. The Bears are well within their right to release someone who allegedly endangered a child while possibly physically assaulting a woman.

In fact, the 49ers released McDonald after it was announced he was merely being investigated for an assault.

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Defensive end Ray McDonald #91 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on prior to the start of the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Im
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

One general manager Monday told me via text he believes McDonald will never play in the NFL again. I think he may actually be right, but never underestimate the ability of a team to overlook the obvious, just as the Bears did with McDonald.

But the Bears letting McDonald go is the easy part. What the NFL needs to do next isn't.

The NFL has done great things over the past year in addressing domestic violenceโ€”this after, for much of its recent existence, like society at large, it ignored the problem. It has set up a system inside the sport, almost an SVU unit, consisting of its own investigative arm. The minds in the league office are more open. There are more women involved in the decision-making process.

The Greg Hardy punishment alone shows the NFL now gets it.

Yet that is just one part of the equation. Players are being held accountable, but teams are not.

If you can make an organization culpable for illegally deflating footballs, or pumping in fake crowd noise, you can make it responsible when it signs disgraceful human beings and then things blow up in its face.

This McDonald arrest and subsequent release is not a shock. This was easily predictable. While McDonald has no convictions for domestic violence, there were previous alleged incidents of violence and assault. Sometimes, you are what your arrest and investigation records say you are.

"You can have false accusations once, maybe twice," said Roger Goodell at his 2009 Super Bowl press conference. "When you start getting to multiple (arrests), you're putting yourself in the wrong position, you're making the wrong decisions in the wrong places. At that point in time, you're reflecting poorly on the NFL itself, your teammates.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

"I'm very firm on the fact that everyone deserves the opportunity to be defended, everyone has the opportunity, if they make a mistake, to deal with that within the legal process. We understand sometimes the players are targets and we can't rush to judgment. But again, multiple offenses over a period of time, you're putting yourself in the wrong position and it reflects poorly."

This is accurate, but what about the franchises that take chances on these players? Why not dock a team a draft pick if it signs or drafts a player who has multiple arrests or investigations related to abuse? Emphasis on multiple.

What is wrong with making all parties accountable, not just the players, but the teams who roll the dice? Nothing would transform the NFL even faster on this issue than the teams finally being held accountable.

The idea of removing draft picks from teams that sign problem players isn't new. It's just that the owners haven't had the guts to implement anything substantive.

Again, none of this is holier-than-thou. It's just common sense. I know these are separate issues. I know. But it's hard for a league to be whole when its players are punished (now) for committing horrible acts of domestic violence but the teams are not.

Teams need to do more when deciding on signing these players. More soul searching. More everything.

Definitely do more than talk to mom.


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