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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Donte Stallworth Suspended

The suspension has finally come. With Stallworth pleading guilty and accepting his sentence (30 days in jail, lifetime suspension of driver's license, 1,000 hours of community service, 2 years of house arrest to be followed by 8 years of probation), the ball was finally in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s court.

Unlike in the Vick case, where commissioner Goodell ordered the QB to stay away from his team while the NFL investigated, Goodell waited until Stallworth’s guilty plea before acting toward any suspension. On Thursday, June 18, Goodell suspended Stallworth indefinitely for his DUI manslaughter that occurred back in March of this year. Many are speculating on what the final suspension for Stallworth will be.

Also, many (as I have) are comparing Stallworth's case to Michael Vick’s case and the case of Rams' defensive end Leonard Little. Little was suspended 8 games for an offense very similar to Stallworth’s back in 1998. Little struck and killed Susan Gutweiler in St. LouisMO after leaving a birthday party drunk. After being convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Little received 90 days in jail, four years' probation and 1000 hours of community service. In 1999 the NFL suspended Little 8 games for his transgressions.

In 2004, with the involuntary manslaughter conviction wiped from his record, in the suburbs of St. Louis, Little was again arrested for drunk driving (and speeding). According to police, Little had bloodshot and watery eyes, smelled of alcohol, and failed three sobriety tests. Because of his 1999 guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter in his drunken-driving crash case, prosecutors charged him as a persistent offender. This made it a felony case. Little was acquitted of drunk driving, but was convicted of the misdemeanor speeding charge.

As far as I can determine, Little was never suspended by the NFL for this second offense. I suppose because he was convicted only of speeding, the league probably felt no suspension was necessary. Stallworth and his representatives have already invoked Leonard Little’s case and will almost certainly do so again when it comes to dealing with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Contrary to what many may believe, I have few problems with Stallworth’s sentence and I feel that his NFL suspension will probably be longer than it should. However, I do have a significant problem with the treatment of Michael Vick. I have a problem with his treatment by the media, the courts, the NFL, and the general public. I feel that what Vick did was unjust and deserved some scorn and punishment. However, both scorn and punishment were WAY out of proportion to his crimes.

For example, if Vick had been caught in a cock-fighting scandal, both funding and killing birds, his treatment would have been much less severe. In fact, he probably would have received his harshest treatment from the late-night comics and perhaps even received an endorsement deal from Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Not really, but this reminds me of a funny Jim Gaffigan line: Vegetarian: 'Do you know what they do to those chickens?!' Gaffigan: 'No, but it's delicious.')

I will not be surprised to see that Stallworth’s suspension is on par with Vick’s (a full season). This is assuming that Vick is immediately reinstated once his sentence is completed in July. If not—if Stallworth receives a suspension from the NFL far less than Vick’s—then I would not be surprised to see Vick consider suing the NFL for his treatment. I’m not sure if he would have a legal leg on which to stand, but if this scenario plays out, I would like to see him pursue it.

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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