San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers quickly release Ray McDonald after new criminal investigation

Defender Ray McDonald was accused in a third recent brush with the law.
Defender Ray McDonald was accused in a third recent brush with the law. The Associated Press

The 49ers, who preached “due process” when defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested four months ago, wasted little time releasing him Wednesday after he became the focus of a sexual assault investigation earlier this week.

General manager Trent Baalke said he found out about the investigation at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday. By 11:30 a.m., he had informed McDonald of his release by telephone. Baalke said he arrived at the decision to part ways with McDonald, one of the team’s longest-tenured players, after conversations with CEO Jed York and coach Jim Harbaugh.

“This isn’t about this one incident,” Baalke said. “This is about a pattern. Once again, if this was one incident we would be standing up here talking about due process like we have multiple times in multiple other situations. But this is just a pattern of decision-making that Ray has demonstrated over the period of time that, once again, it’s no longer going to be tolerated.”

San Jose police said they received a call Tuesday morning from a local hospital where a woman told them she had been, according to a police statement, “possibly sexually assaulted a day prior” and that McDonald was the suspect.

After a preliminary investigation, police obtained a search warrant and served it at McDonald’s San Jose home Tuesday night. No arrests have been made.

It was the third time police had been called to his house since May.

Last month, Santa Clara County prosecutors decided not to charge McDonald, 30, with domestic abuse following an Aug. 31 incident that involved his pregnant fiancée.

The District Attorney’s Office determined the fiancée, referred to only as Jane Doe, struck McDonald and McDonald tried to remove her from the house. There were conflicting views on how much force McDonald used, and there were no credible witnesses of the altercation, which occurred upstairs and out of view of those that attended the birthday party McDonald had thrown for himself that night.

Police also were called to McDonald’s home in May to investigate a gun incident involving his fiancée.

The fiancée is not the same woman involved in the current investigation.

“We’re doing stuff to try to better our relationship,” McDonald said last month after the domestic abuse investigation ended. “To make sure that we’re not putting ourselves in situations like this because we do care about each other. We love each other.”

McDonald has not missed a start this season and leads the 49ers’ defensive linemen in number of plays. A member of the team since 2007, he is one of the more popular players in the locker room and was among the veterans who led player-only workouts at San Jose State during the 2011 lockout.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a rookie that season, was one of the newcomers embraced by McDonald’s group that summer.

“It’s tough,” Kaepernick said when asked about McDonald’s release. “He was a good friend to a lot of people on this team. No one around him ever thought bad of him. He was always a good person to everyone around here, so hopefully it’s just a misunderstanding.”

Still, Kaepernick echoed the team’s general manager and said he understood why McDonald had to go.

“This is an organization. It’s a franchise,” Kaepernick said. “You want to have a high standard and we do around here. You have to be able to abide by that.”

McDonald’s arrest in August was the ninth time a 49ers player had been arrested since 2012, more than any other NFL team. It also came amid other high-profile police-blotter stories involving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson that cast the league in a negative light.

Earlier this month, NFL owners adopted a new personal conduct policy that sets more concrete guidelines for dealing with employees who break the rules. For example, it creates a baseline suspension of six games without pay for violation such as sexual assault or domestic abuse.

The 49ers, however, didn’t wait for the NFL to act on the most recent matter involving McDonald.

Baalke said it wasn’t a matter of guilt or innocence but rather poor judgment. After the August incident, he said he told McDonald what he needed to do to remain in good standing with the 49ers.

“And with these latest allegations, that was just one more situation that we just weren’t willing to deal with anymore,” Baalke said.

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