By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) At some point, Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey will have to take questions about the massive debacle the organization created for itself regarding the signing and subsequent release of defensive lineman/accused rapist and domestic batterer Ray McDonald, who the team parted ways with Monday after his third major incident since last August. While general manager Ryan Pace put out a short statement Monday saying that that McDonald didn’t live up to the expectations the team set, this issue also demands an explanation from ownership.
But whatever McCaskey eventually says will be awkward, ham-fisted, tone deaf, forced emotional and all around bad with a high probability of making the situation worse.
Because that’s what George McCaskey does. He takes easy stuff and needlessly complicates it. He made the Mike Ditka number retirement weirder than it needed to be. He gave Pace — who believes in second chances for a guy with more than two incidents of violence — the go-ahead to sign McDonald. McCaskey paid Ernie Accorsi a lot of money to conduct thorough research that led to him pointing at the most obvious choice, John Fox, to be the new head coach.
That’s the same John Fox who thinks of McDonald as “a great teammate” and who brought along defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, someone who vouched for the Bears to sign McDonald. But Fox and Fangio are football automatons. Theirs isn’t a world in which conscience can exist alongside football success.
On the other hand, McCaskey is supposedly a barometer of pathos. He has spoken of image and reputation and how emotionally invested he and his family are in the perception of the Chicago Bears.
“It was a situation where I didn’t want to make an evaluation based on football ability,” McCaskey said in April. “I left that to the football experts. I just wanted to know do we feel comfortable if he becomes a Chicago Bear? And so I gave Ryan permission to pursue him as a free agent. After that, Ryan still has to make an evaluation with his staff on the football side taking into account the character issue.”
And in eventually deciding McDonald wasn’t going to harm the perception of an NFL anchor franchise, he more than once doubled down on the decision, going so far as to blame victims of domestic violence in justifying the signing.
“An alleged victim, I think — much like anybody else who has a bias in this situation — there’s a certain amount of discounting in what they have to say,” McCaskey said.
That’s a line that a person in charge of people and personnel and decisions and stuff actually said. About violence toward women. Regarding a guy who at the time had multiple incidents of alleged violence against women. Now McDonald has one more.
McCaskey is a colossal embarrassment. The following is what the colossal embarrassment, the representative of ownership mind you, should say to the press, Bears fans, the NFL community and society at large, but it isn’t likely.
I am profoundly sorry. First and foremost, I apologize to the woman and child involved in the latest incident regarding Ray McDonald. Those are very real people who are certainly hurting beyond my comprehension, and they are the most important parties right now. Victims of domestic violence need to be acknowledged and supported rather than be afterthoughts or inconveniences in a story involving sports and celebrity.
I apologize to victims of domestic violence everywhere. Decisions of mine have made a mockery of your pain and sorrow, and my selfishness and willful blindness worked to belittle the very real epidemic of harm perpetrated on women and children in this country. To all those who work so hard to shed light on this societal problem and to all those who suffer in silence, I can’t convey how sorry I am.
The responsibility of making Ray McDonald a Chicago Bear falls on me, as I cleared GM Ryan Pace to do so. Ryan’s job is to weigh football decisions. Mine is supposed to be something more. Back then I conducted research on that player that I ultimately decided would make our football team better. At the conclusion of the research process I spoke of how impressed I was with Ray. I cited what I believed in Ray to be “bad decision-making.” Turns out it was I the one who made a bad decision. I was wrong then, I am wrong now, and the results of my foolishness, of my putting football ahead of decency, have caused the Chicago Bears and everyone associated with the team, including the fans, an embarrassment for which there is no quick rectification.
Ray McDonald is no longer a Chicago Bear, effective immediately. That’s the least important aspect of this situation at the moment, though. Again, I put a man’s potential as a football player ahead of his potential to be a menace to other human beings off the football field. This isn’t a man who might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. This isn’t a man caught in an isolated unfortunate circumstance for which he made the wrong choice. This isn’t a man. This is a monster, and I deemed that monster worthy of representing the Chicago Bears, just as I represented the Chicago Bears then and do so now.
When first asked about the possibility of signing Ray, I said absolutely not. But then I allowed myself to be lured into the trap under a guise of reform so common in serial abusers. That’s on me, and I make no excuses today for that. My best judgment then directly resulted in the awful situation today.
I was staunch, if not abrasive, in my defense of signing Ray. In retrospect, I couldn’t look more foolish nor more incompetent.
I am part of a problem that goes beyond football. I am a cog in a toxic machine that too often wavers somewhere between apathy toward violence against women and outright willful ignorance of it. I’ve shallowly and repeatedly used my mother, Virginia, as an appeal to female authority and as a shield against potential criticism. I’ve dubbed criticism of the signing as “reverse sexism.” I chose to employ someone under the justification that he deserved the benefit of so many doubts while people that he and others like him have harmed do not. I cited the importance of looking at the humanity in a repeated accused abuser of women while I also blamed victims to apologize for myself. There’s no apology now that can make up for that.
Your confidence in me should be shaken, if not permanently broken, and I acknowledge that I may never regain your respect, nor do I claim to deserve it. In order to make some attempt at restoring the once-proud image of the Chicago Bears, I’m resigning as team chairman effective immediately. I can’t continue to act as the public representative of this team after publicly embarrassing it possibly beyond repair. This isn’t making an error in judgment regarding a coaching hire or a trade. I have erred in judgment on a moral and ethical level that compromises my ability to be trusted going forward and warrants me no longer being in a position of direct authority over other people. I don’t know exactly the best way the Chicago Bears can move forward from this, but I know that best way doesn’t involve me.
To members of the Chicago Bears family, football fans, and compassionate people everywhere, I am sorry.
George McCaskey and the Chicago Bears are an epic, festering embarrassment right now. Until something akin to the above is said by the chairman of the Chicago Bears, he and the organization he purports to represent will be an embarrassment.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.