NFL are three of the greatest letters… DWI are three of the worst

, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM Comments (4)

Commissioner Goodell, too many of your players are facing this situation...

Today there was news that Donte Stallworth plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for killing someone while driving drunk. As part of the plea deal he will serve 24 days in jail, 2 years house arrest, 8 years probation, a lifetime drivers license revocation, and 1,000 hours of community service. He also agreed to a financial settlement with the family of the victim. The NFL is expected to suspend Stallworth for his actions, but the length of the suspension is yet to be determined.

This got me thinking about the NFL conduct policy as it relates to suspensions. In a quick Google search, I found at least 18 DWI arrests of active NFL players in the last three years, with many more before that. A study by the San Diego Union-Tribune found that 73 players on 2008 NFL rosters had been arrested for DWI, and 28 percent of all NFL player arrests were related to drunken driving.

In 1998, Leonard Little was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter for killing another driver while he was drunk. He served three months in jail and an 8 game suspension from the league. He was arrested again in 2003 for another DWI. Eric Warfield racked up three DWI’s in a four year stretch. Leon Hall, Chris Henry, Koren Robinson, Odell Thurman, Chris Chambers, Marcus Coleman, Adrian Awasom, Reggie Williams, Dwayne Jarett, Deltha O’Neal, Marshawn Lynch and Brandon Marshall have all gotten DWI’s. Their reported BAC levels were between .092-.149.

I will save you the sanctimony of writing a column about how rich people should have drivers and not be stupid enough to get DWI’s. Instead, I would rather discuss the penalties the NFL doles out. Brandon Marshall got a 3 game suspension for a DWI, which was later reduced to 1 game. Most other NFL players that did receive a suspension for a DWI received a 4 game suspension. Leonard Little killed someone while drunk and got 8 games.

In non-DWI related suspensions, Tank Johnson got suspended 8 games for multiple gun related charges, Pacman Jones got a year for 10 incidents including 5 arrests. Jamal Lewis received 2 games for setting up a cocaine deal on his cellphone, and Marshawn Lynch received a 3 game suspension (which he is appealing) for gun possession charges. (Lynch also hit a woman with his car in 2008 and drove away…the NFL did not take action for this incident).

I applaud Commissioner Goodell for the implementation of the NFL Conduct Policy. It was a necessary reaction to a continuing problem of unacceptable behavior by NFL players. The conduct policy says in part:

“While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher. It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful”

This is a strong policy that is outlined more specifically in the rest of the conduct policy and allows the NFL to discipline players when they break the law, are arrested, or do serious harm to another individual as a result of their actions.

By all accounts, Donte Stallworth has taken more ownership of his actions than most other NFL players who have been arrested. For that, he should be commended. However, he did commit a terrible crime that resulted in the death of another person. He has the resources to avoid such a situation and received specific training on avoiding such problems when he joined the league. There is nothing he could say, do, agree to, or suggest that would absolve him for what he did. If history is a guide, he would receive the same suspension that Leonard Little received after he killed someone. That simply is not enough.

Roger Goodell has done a ton of work attempting to improve the league’s image. He has come down hard on players violating gun laws because he understands how dangerous a situation it could be to have wealthy identifiable players carrying firearms. He should follow his own lead and strengthen the penalties for drunk driving. Many people who make the dumb decision to drive drunk do so because they never think they could harm someone else; they think only about themselves. As we all know, drunk driving does result in people losing their lives. It is a selfish crime that often has the most dire consequences. Commissioner Goodell could take a small step towards addressing that problem by punishing all future DWI offenders as harshly as possible. He should start with Dante Stallworth and ban him for at least a year.

And on a completely different note, the NFL has banned players from carrying guns in stadiums, on team property, and during NFL related events. The NRA has said exactly nothing about this. You ask yourself the following question: If some other entity that was predominantly made up of white people were to ban guns, would the NRA say something? Before you answer, ask yourself another question: Do you think that the NRA might act differently if the NFL was not a predominantly African-American league?

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