David White: For 49ers, Aldon Smith's troubles are all in the family

The Fresno BeeApril 26, 2014 


Things were much different for Aldon Smith when he was holding up a 49ers jersey as the team's first-round draft pick in 2011 next to coach Jim Harbaugh, left, and General Manager Trent Baalke. Or are they? Despite multiple arrests, Smith still is treated like "family" by the 49ers.


The autumn wind is no longer a Raider.

It's a 49er.

As Al Davis rolls over in his mausoleum, let that one sink in.

The Raiders don't lead the NFL with nine arrests since 2012 — the 49ers do. Oakland isn't the one thinking contract extension for a player responsible for four of those Miranda rights experiences — San Francisco is.

I'm sorry, which franchise is supposed to be the Bay Area rebel with an eye-patch cause?

There's Chris Culliver and his brass knuckles, Ahmad Brooks and his broken-over-teammate's-head beer bottles, Aldon Smith and his … two DUI arrests, illegal possession of an assault weapon charge, and his alleged fake bomb threat at LAX this month.

The 49ers' response to Smith in particular? That came Friday via General Manager Trent Baalke at his predraft pep talk with Bay Area media.

"We're a family," Baalke said. "You don't just open a door and toss people out of it."

Except they do it all the time, because they're not a family.

They are a mega-dollar operation, and a professional business, and an entertainment sports franchise. There is a difference.

Family has to put up with the knucklehead stepbrother who keeps getting locked up. Businesses don't have to put up with employees who are on a first-name basis with the local bail bondsman.

If I get popped four times in two years, I'm looking for another job. Smith does it, and the 49ers might hand out a raise to the Pro Bowl pass rusher.

And, that's the greater point here. Baalke says you don't put family on the street, but the family he works for does it all the time, and always has.

Ask law-abiding Joe Montana if it felt like family when his Hall of Fame arm wound up in Kansas City. Find a Hall of Famer who started with the 49ers during their Super Bowl runs who didn't get cut when he got too old, slow or overpaid.

Model citizen Alex Smith wasn't family when he got replaced by Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, or when he got traded to Kansas City.

If Aldon Smith were a special-teams scrub, do you think the 49ers are wanting to keep him around until 2018 like Baalke said?

Of course not. This makes the 49ers like every other NFL team, who say they are family, and then assign Old Uncle Jeb to the curb when he loses a step.

Go ask veteran do-gooders Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers how they were shown the door this offseason after being part of the family. Compare their end to Culliver, who gets to stay no matter what he says and does because his age is as small as his salary compared to the other two.

The 49ers want to win, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That's what sports teams are created to do. If they want to start players who get into trouble, who cares? This is a game, not a morality contest.

But, stop dropping phrases like "family" and "above reproach" — a coach Jim Harbaugh favorite — if you're going to let the great players get arrested and stay.

In fact, if this is how we're going to cut the cake, just do away altogether with the old "Winning with Class" motto.

Grow some Lyle Alzado facial hair and do what the Raiders of the '70s did with their outlaw image.

Own it. Wear it. Because, embrace it or not, it's all yours now.


The columnist can be reached at bydw@sbcglobal.net or @bydavidwhite on Twitter.

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