The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Goodell Went Too Far

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Watching Donte' Stallworth stand before a judge in a Miami Courtroom this week, bearing his soul and expressing genuine remorse and contrition, clearly showed that in a DUI situation everyone loses. This was a tragic situation for all involved, and the tragedy continued yesterday when the NFL commissioner suspended Stallworth indefinitely from the NFL. There is no doubt that Stallworth's actions were reprehensible and unjustifiable. The question is: how much of a debt to society and to the NFL should he pay, and has he paid enough?

The television cameras showed that Stallworth handled himself admirably in front of the court despite the no-win situation. He was genuinely remorseful, apologetic and accepted complete responsibility for his ill-advised actions on that fateful night. This is the critical first step to reestablishing himself in the eyes of the public, the NFL and his family.

He is now scarred, mentally and financially, for the rest of his life. No one can imagine having to live knowing you have taken another human being's life due to your own irresponsibility. Stallworth did an admirable job at his sentencing to offer retribution, and did everything he could to make amends with the family of the victim. He has also settled the civil case and is now sitting in a Miami-Dade County Jail for the next 30 days with two years of in-home arrest and a subsequent ten years of probation and 1,000 hours of useful community service awaiting him.

Stallworth's professional punishment began today with his suspension. The question is how much additional punishment should the NFL dole out upon a convicted felon? Yes, the NFL must protect the integrity of its sport and require a high level of moral conduct amongst all of its employees. This is critical to the league and its continued high level of success. At the same time, all players who make mistakes should be afforded the opportunity for a second chance if they truly and completely pay their debt to society. To err is supremely human in all cases, even for celebrities and athletes.

It is clear that our new NFL commissioner has pushed the punitive bar too high, to the point of inappropriate excessive. I know that this is not a popular position, but the mere fact that Michael Vick has not been reinstated to the league after serving more than two years in jail and acknowledging his faults and mistakes is a shame.

In Stallworth's case, a suspension is obviously warranted when he is released from custody and continues to make amends for his negligent actions. However, a lifetime or indefinite suspension also appears to go too far. The one major difference between a murder or some other type of intentional crime (see Plaxico Burress and carrying a gun or Travis Henry selling illegal narcotics) and a DUI manslaughter (and I am in no way minimizing the tragic consequences or the poor judgment a person makes when they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages), is that there was not the original intent to do harm to another human.

Yes, it is 2009 and we are all properly taught the evils and dangers of drinking and driving, however, in the DUI situation, there are no winners and when possible, after a person pays his debit, it only serves to benefit society to give the people who have earned the right a second chance. Donte' Stallworth, through his words and actions at his sentencing appears to be headed in that direction. He can only hope that the Commissioner sees fit to provide him with a second chance at life as an NFL player, and allow him back into the league after a reasonable yet limited suspension.

By Peter Schaffer  |  June 19, 2009; 9:34 AM ET  | Category:  Cleveland Browns , Crime , Peter Schaffer , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"not the original intent to do harm to another human." One half of all deaths and injuries in accidents are alcohol related. Are we blind enough to ignore the fact that drinking and driving leads to dire consequences? In addition, most drunk drivers DO NOT suffer the castrophic injuries or death. This is a clear case of pure negligence and the court allowed money to be the persuading factor-good lawyers and pay off the victim's family, then excuse it all as a "mistake".

Posted by: Justlistening | June 19, 2009 11:12 AM

While I agree on principle, it stops there.

Indefintely can mean anywhere between 1 game to lifetime ban and everything in between.

I would think 1 year would be fair. But he may get 2 since that's how long he is on house arrest for......

Posted by: 4thFloor | June 19, 2009 4:11 PM

As admirable as Dante handled a very difficult circumstance, it sure appears as though he was able to buy down his sentence. The NFL tries to be objective when levying discipline. The player’s wealth or notoriety doesn’t matter…rather the NFL’s standard matters. When a death is caused, that is as serious as you can get. Think about it, a human life was ended due to a careless act…I don’t see how an indefinite suspension could be construed as too punitive.

Posted by: JimBeam2 | June 19, 2009 5:06 PM

Shows how little Mr. Schaffer knows. The fact that the law thinks "there was not the original intent to do harm to another human" is the main reason why we have so many deaths caused by drunk drivers. The court keeps putting the drunks back on the road with a slap on the wrist.

The FACT IS: "When YOU DRIVE DRUNK, YOU ARE INTENTING TO GO AND KILL ANOTHER PERSON. PERIOD!"

Posted by: lingx99 | June 19, 2009 5:55 PM

How surprising that a sports agent thinks the commissioner went too far. Stallworth got off light having to serve 30 days in jail for killing someone.

Posted by: costamesaray | June 19, 2009 6:24 PM

Mr Schaffer wouldn't feel this way if it was one of his relatives that was killed by the thug.

Posted by: hessone | June 20, 2009 9:08 AM

How could this be going too far? Look at other suspensions such as Michael Vick going to jail for two years for dog fighting, and Stallworth only goes to jail for one month for killing a human being.

The justice system may easily be duped by high priced attorneys, but fortunately Roger Goodell is not.

Posted by: fmc5 | June 20, 2009 9:14 AM

How is it, that anyone else in America would get a longer sentence, and definitely lose his/her job and here you are arguing his situation is different. It is no different. His is actually worse. He killed a man.
I believe in second chances - and here is his: educate kids on the dangers of making asinine choices. Speak to inmates about changing their lives. Motivate others to learn from your mistakes.
But the NFL - nope, sorry - Dante should lose that chance, indefinitely.

Posted by: displacedhoosier | June 20, 2009 10:59 AM

"The television cameras showed that Stallworth handled himself admirably in front of the court despite the no-win situation. He was genuinely remorseful, apologetic and accepted complete responsibility for his ill-advised actions on that fateful night."

Maybe it was genuine, or was it an act. What is hard to understand is everyone has forgotten Dante's initial plea entry was 'not guilty'. Upon his arrest he stated it was not his fault, the man ran out in front of his car. Only after the evidence became insurmountable against him and faced 10-15 years, he (or his lawyer) found a way to plea bargain.

When you drink and drive the intent to do harm is always there. Whether you are conscious of it or not. Dante's sentence was extremely light for the crime. The judge gave him a slap on the wrist. It simply illustrates the justice system can be bought, especially if you are high profile with lots of money.

As for his football career, he should be suspended for at least one year. This is his second offense with some type of drug abuse and resulted in a death.

Great character role model for our kids!

Posted by: ctrumpeter | June 20, 2009 11:29 AM

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