The Chicago Bears announced the signing of Ray McDonald last Tuesday as they attempt to re-establish themselves as the “Monsters of the Midway,” coming off of two very un-monster-like seasons. McDonald is exactly the kind of football player the Bears are looking for to fit Vic Fangio’s 3-4 scheme, a system that will look unfamiliar to Bears fans. Fangio coached McDonald in San Francisco and he’s an elite edge pass rusher, a position where the Bears are in desperate need of help. From a purely football perspective, this is a great move.
But McDonalds’s story does not start and end on the football field. He has been having legal trouble on and off for the last five years, starting with a DUI in 2010 and an arrest two years later for not providing proof that he completed the “first-offender” program. In May 2014, police were called to his house in regard to a domestic disturbance, and later that year he was arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse charges involving his fiancee, but charges were never filed due to insufficient evidence. McDonald was cut by the 49ers a couple months later, citing “a pattern of poor decision-making.” If you need any more reason to suspect guilt, take a look at this text conversation documented on Deadspin.
When Ryan Pace was introduced as general manager of the Bears, he preached character in his opening press conference. The Bears were coming off the most dysfunctional season in recent memory on and off the field and this new regime was supposed to represent the Bears turning the corner in both talent and personality, so this McDonald signing doesn’t make sense to me.
Given all the drama coming out of the locker room last season, why take on a player with multiple legal issues that are still pending? What’s more, given the current state of the league, why take on a player with a history of domestic violence? Have they not seen the effect this had on the Ravens, Panthers and Vikings last year? I have a hard time being able to separate the football issues and the legal issues in this case, especially because of the way Pace started as Bears’ GM.
If he had come to the podium and said the Bears were prepared to win on the field whatever the cost (the Dallas Cowboys model), I would understand this signing a lot more. But this potentially questions the credibility of the new GM in his first major move.
By signing McDonald, the Bears are telling their fan base to trust them that he is going to be cleared of all charges. If you’re Pace or George McCaskey, is McDonald worth the risk? Is he worth the potential legal and media distractions? And is this signing worth the Bears potentially looking like a team that thinks its okay for their players to be domestic abusers? I believe that human beings deserve second chances in most cases, but what has McDonald done to prove that he deserves one? This is potentially a big hit to the fans’ trust in this new regime before they’ve had a chance to play a single snap.
Now, there is a scenario that sees charges dropped and McDonald having a Pro Bowl season for a revamped Bears defense. These cases are still open and given McDonald’s countersuit against one of his accusers, it’s all very possible that he could be cleared. But this is not just one offense we are talking about here. This is an extremely talented player who was dropped from a good team because of a series of offenses over multiple years.
If the NFL is serious about taking a stand against domestic violence, as they claim to be, players like McDonald need to be removed from the league until it is proven that they are 100 percent cleared of these charges. The NFL can come out and say whatever they want about policy and rule changes, but until they are held accountable it’s just talk.This is not new to the NFL, this is just new to the public spotlight.
Are we supposed to believe that there were no issues with domestic violence until recently? Of course not, the NFL has just not been held accountable until recently. And what pressure does the NFL have on them to follow through? No matter what heinous offenses their players commit, people are still going to watch the NFL.
Again, if this were a pure football move I would be totally behind it. But in today’s NFL you’re not just signing the player, you’re signing the person and everything the comes with him. In the case of Ray McDonald the question yet unanswered will be – are the skills that come with the football player worth the issues that come with the person? My gut is to want to give Pace and company the benefit of the doubt to start, but they’ll be on a real short leash with this one.