The lesson of Donte Stallworth

I don’t really know what I want from Donte Stallworth, but I want more than I feel I’m getting.
Maybe the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver really is, like many people say, taking responsibility for his actions by paying off the family of the 59-year-old crane operator he hit and killed while driving drunk at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning in Miami.
If the wife, children and relatives of Mario Reyes are satisfied, why am I not satisfied with Stallworth getting 24 days in jail, two years of house arrest, 1,000 hours of community service and eight years probation?
I don’t know why I’m not satisfied, I just know the whole thing smells wrong.
Stallworth may, indeed, be truly remorseful. This may be a life-changing moment for him, and perhaps the money he’s paid to the Reyes family will lift them out of poverty and do for them what their father/husband was trying to do for them that morning — provide a financial means to survive.
There’s just a part of me that can’t get past the contrast between a many dying needlessly and an NFL player with the means to write a check and make it all go away, writing a check and making it all go away.
So Donte Stallworth now sits in a cell for the next 3 1/2 weeks, then he’ll be free to pursue his NFL career.
Florida law says anyone with a DUI manslaughter conviction must serve two years of the 15 years in prison Stallworth faced had he gone to trial and been found guilty.
But Stallworth’s guilty plea to vehicular manslaughter is not considered a conviction by Florida law, so he will serve only 24 days.
Yes, I know, a guilty plea is not considered a conviction. All together now…”Huh?”
Attorneys on both sides say Stallworth faced up to his actions, that he waited for police to arrive after killing Reyes, and admitted to hitting him with his car.
That, they say, makes this a just result for a guy who owned up to what he did.
So, we’ve officially reached the point where an athlete who does what they’re supposed to do earns bonus points and the brand, “This is a stand-up guy.”
Really, I’m not surprised. Sickened, yes, but not surprised.
We long ago made clear to Donte Stallworth and other elite athletes that if they could run fast enough, jump high enough or do whatever to help our teams win, the rules would be different for them.
In high school, they got grades they didn’t deserve or other preferential treatment.
It continued in college, and it’s ramped up even more in their professional sport.
Not every pro athlete taps into this entitlement, of course, but it’s always there for them.
It was there for Donte Stallworth the day after he cashed a $4.5-million roster bonus for remaining a Cleveland Brown. Maybe that’s what he was celebrating when he got drunk — 50% over the legal limit — and decided to drive his $179,000 Bentley across the causeway between Miami Beach and Miami.
He was driving 50 miles-per-hour, 10 over the posted speed limit, when he saw Mario Reyes running to catch a bus after finishing his shift as a crane operator.
Reyes wasn’t in the crosswalk. Stallworth flashed his lights.
The rest you know.
What we don’t know is whether Stallworth will be cleared by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to play this season.
Goodell also has similar decisions to make on Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress.
Vick is under house arrest, fulfilling the final portion of a sentence that included nearly two years in prison for financing and participating in a dog-fighting operation.
Burress faces a mandatory minimum 3 1/2-year sentence for discharging a gun at a New York nightclub and accidentally shooting himself in the leg.
His case has been continued until September, and with skillful lawyering will most certainly be postponed long enough so Burress can play this season.
Not surprisingly, Burress’ attorney thinks Stallworth’s sentence sets an appropriate precedent for his client: “They gave him 30 days and someone ended up dying,” Benjamin Brafman said on Sirius NFL Radio. “In our case there is no victim. So I think I have a powerful argument as to why there should be a lenient sentence here.”
Of course, he does, because, after all, his client, like Donte Stallworth, can write a check big enough to make it all go away.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: