The League

Les Carpenter
Staff Writer

Les Carpenter

Yahoo! Sports reporter and former NFL writer for The Washington Post.

Consistent Punishment


It is easy to point the finger of outrage at Donte' Stallworth now that a man lies dead. He was drinking, he drove, somebody died. But if Roger Goodell is going to drop a hammer on Stallworth because of an accident then he has to act equally as strong against every other NFL player who is arrested for a DUI. For too long our sports leagues have treated drinking and driving as a casual offense, especially in a society where driving to and from the local bar is not only accepted but encouraged.

For those who think Stallworth got off too lightly in the courts, they should understand this was always going to be a hard case to prosecute. Stallworth was driving down a six-line freeway, the eastern end of Interstate 395, into a bright, rising sun on a weekend morning when there would be little or no traffic. According to police reports, his victim, Mario Reyes, tried to run across the freeway. The place where he did this is just on the other side of a traffic signal that normally sits green. In other words, there would be no reason for a driver to expect somebody to suddenly sprint across the road. Imagine driving the inner loop of the Beltway through Silver Spring into a sunrise on a clear weekend morning with no traffic and trying to stop for someone running across the road.

It's hard to do sober or drunk.

None of this is to absolve Stallworth. His decision to drive that morning was stupid. And while he has reportedly handled himself as well as any person of his stature could in such a situation and has been publicly distraught at the fact that he has killed someone, he deserves punishment. Among other freedoms relinquished, he might never drive again.

Goodell should suspend him. But whatever punishment the commissioner chooses should be a blueprint for the penalties he hands out for every NFL player caught drinking and driving. A culture has existed for too long that allowed Stallworth to believe he could still drive that fateful morning. If the NFL truly wants to attack it then it must crack down on every player who gets a DUI whether somebody dies or not.

Which isn't as easy as pointing the finger of outrage at Dante Stallworth.

By Les Carpenter  |  June 19, 2009; 12:23 PM ET  | Category:  Cleveland Browns , Crime , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I think probation with charity work...It's constructive for all involved...He keeps working to pay a settlement and the charity benefits from a truly remorseful person.

Posted by: DD163 | June 19, 2009 7:39 PM

SO Michael Vick kills dogs and gets a year in prison, indefinite suspension from the NFL, is forced into filing for bankruptcy and must take a construction job paying $10/hour while confined to his own home. Meanwhile Dante Stallworth kills a PERSON while drunk driving and gets a few months, probation, pays the family not to sue him and gets suspended for a half a year (potentially)? There is some serious inequity in this system. The NFL is a privilege. I think what Vick did was horrible and deserved every bit of his punishment, but Stallworth deserves the same if not worse for taking the life of another.

Posted by: bpeeples | June 19, 2009 7:51 PM

your logic is highly faulty ... drawing the line at cases where death results is hardly arbitrary, and your attempted analogy is almost absurd.

but OTOH, it would probably be a good thing, so -- as they say --- bring it on.

suspend all the overpaid NFL morons who are convicted of DUI... I wouldn't shed a tear.

Posted by: fendertweed | June 19, 2009 8:52 PM

Those are all mitigating circumstances for a sober driver. Mr Stallworth was drunk. All mitigating circumstances are trumped by Mr Stallworth's drunkeness.

The indefinite is fair. He killed someone. Hopefully, Mr Gooddell is atoning for his past sins, when he went too lightly on players who were convicted of DUI. Mr Stallworth is now a two time offender of the league's substance abuse policy. He received the right punishment.

Posted by: jeffreyt211 | June 20, 2009 9:20 AM

He killed a man! It immediately changes the face of the situation.
Your argument doesn't take into consideration that we pride ourselves as Americans at looking at multiple sides of issues. It's why we have such ranges as homicide and involuntary manslaughter.

He killed a man - regardless of how, it happened - and should therefore be held responsible. Not NFL responsible. He should have received a hell of a lot longer than 30 days in jail - and should understand that if he does get to play again, it is a "second chance," another point of pride for Americans.

On a side note, I'm sick of people arguing for this athlete's double standard. Most people I know - from teachers to lawyers - would not only go to jail, but the thought of returning to work would be laughable, since their employers would make it very clear there is no longer a job open to them.

Posted by: displacedhoosier | June 20, 2009 10:53 AM

My son was sentenced to 2 and 1/2 years for gettinng a third DUI. In all 3 offenses, no other car was involved and no one was hurt or killed. We did not have the money to enlist the services of a "specialty" lawyer that perhaps could have gotten a one-month sentence, as in this case. My son deserved some punishment, but what a great inequity exists here.

Posted by: jfrishko | June 20, 2009 11:39 AM

"None of this is to absolve Stallworth." But, surely, in saying "this," you are mitigating the offense.

Posted by: paul37 | June 20, 2009 6:09 PM

Bear in mind that Michael Vick's crimes were ones of purposeful cruelty and sadism, while Donte Stallworth's crimes were ones of recklessness. Stallworth deserves to be punished, because his recklessness caused the death of a person. But it is unfair to suggest that his actions were anywhere near as morally depraved as Vick's.

Posted by: jkarasek | June 20, 2009 9:10 PM

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