49ers’ Ray McDonald says ‘truth will come out’ as arrest tests NFL’s new rule on domestic violence

(San Jose Police Dept. via Associated Press)
(San Jose Police Dept. via Associated Press)

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald promised that “the truth will come out” when he was released from jail on $25,000 bail Sunday after being charged with felony domestic violence.

“I can’t say too much right now,” he told KTVU after his release, “but the truth will come out. Everybody knows what kind of person I am. I’m a good-hearted person.”

The arrest for an alleged incident involving his pregnant fiancee during a birthday party at his home Saturday night is one that may also jeopardize his football future. McDonald is the first NFL player to be charged with domestic violence just days after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced strict new penalties, including a possible six-game suspension for a first offense (subject to “mitigating factors”) and a ban ranging from one year to lifetime for a second offense. McDonald was arrested on suspicion of “inflicting injury on a spouse or cohabitant,” according to the Sacramento Bee, and just what Goodell will do is uncertain at this point. Given that he took the unprecedented step of apologizing for the league’s two-game suspension of Ray Rice for a domestic incident, he’s no doubt considering the McDonald case carefully. MMQB’s Peter King writes that the league’s initial statement was brief:

“We are looking into it,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said Sunday. That was the only statement—but it seemed clear that the league may not wait for final court adjudication in the case. Goodell’s letter to the owners Thursday addressing the new policy said the policy is “effective immediately” and the urgency of the issue could push the NFL to act sooner than the courts. The league’s Personal Conduct Policy opens the possibility for discipline before the courts rule if Goodell feels there is an “immediate and substantial risk to the integrity and reputation of the NFL.”

Although 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh has, according to former player Donte Whitner, a no-tolerance policy for players involved in domestic violence, the McDonald case leaves him and the defense in a bind, with Aldon Smith suspended nine games and NaVorro Bowman still recovering from knee surgery. For himself and his team, McDonald’s timing is atrocious, even if it is uncertain whether or how quickly he might be punished. The rule leaves a lot open to interpretation by Goodell:

“Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant. Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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