The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

Rosenhaus Responsible?

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Well that was fast. NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell wasted no-time in declaring Donte Stallworth "suspended indefinitely" from further participation in the NFL following his rather lenient sentence for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk in Florida. Stallworth had already been a part of the NFL's substance abuse program back in 2007 so this stern penalty, effectively trumping the player's plea agreement, should come as no surprise.

Goodell's action was swift, decisive and consistent with other decisions he's made since he became commissioner. That is the mark of a good leader whether he's the face of a league's front office or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

The commissioner will surely be criticized as being overly harsh. After all, according to the Associated Press, Leonard Little of the Rams pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after he hit and killed a woman while driving drunk in 1998 and served an eight-game suspension. And inevitable comparisons to Michael Vick who received a strikingly similar "suspended indefinitely" letter from Goodell, are already all over the blogosphere.

These two cases are not as alike as they might appear. Stallworth, according to accounts, was cooperative with law enforcement and accepted responsibility for his actions. This is not the case for Vick who initially pleaded not guilty but later changed that plea to guilty and admitted he funded an interstate dogfighting ring. This is will not come down to the value of human life and an animal's life but rather to a tragic unintentional traffic accident versus an ongoing conspiracy that was denied for months. No one should be surprised when Stallworth ultimately receives a lesser penalty.

"Suspended indefinitely" certainly does not mean "banned for life" and Stallworth can expect to have a chance to return to football at some point in the future. But his story won't end with reinstatement. Stallworth's actions, after all, robbed a daughter of her father. In addition to restitution included in his plea agreement, Stallworth will have to be seen as having learned from his mistake.

Another party in this matter is Stallworth's agent, the irascible Drew Rosenhaus. Though Rosenhaus has more than 100 clients currently in the NFL, a large number of them are making headlines for all the wrong reasons including Plaxico Burress, OchoCinco, Jeremy Shockey and Terrell Owens. Rosenhaus was supposedly the inspiration for the deceitful Bob Sugar from the movie Jerry McGuire. He is one of the best in his field in winning large and lucrative contracts for his clients. But there are other agents who do this just as well.

Players are accountable for their actions and personal responsibility doesn't end when you become a professional athlete. Before they choose a representative to land those big contracts, top college prospects would be wise to look closely at an agent's range of clients, at the collective stature and championships they've achieved, and what they do after they're done playing. Prospects should decide if that's the best company for them to keep.

The character of an agent's portfolio is as revealing as its net income and there is no reason why an athlete can't have both.

By Jason Maloni  |  June 19, 2009; 11:29 AM ET  | Category:  Cleveland Browns , Crime , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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