Many people were outraged when Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth received only 30 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter on Tuesday. He was also placed on two years of house arrest/community confinement and will be on probation for the next 10 years, but there was still a feeling that Stallworth hadn't been punished enough for the March 14th accident that killed Mario Reyes.
Those people should be happy to learn that Stallworth won't be able to serve his jail time and pick up his NFL career as if nothing ever happened. The league suspended Stallworth indefinitely without pay on Thursday afternoon, and commissioner Roger Goodell's letter informing Stallworth of the suspension pulled few punches.
"The conduct reflected in your guilty plea resulted in the tragic loss of life and was inexcusable. While the criminal justice system has determined the legal consequences of this incident, it is my responsibility as NFL Commissioner to determine appropriate league discipline for your actions, which have caused irreparable harm to the victim and his family, your club, your fellow players and the NFL. ... There is no reasonable dispute that your continued eligibility for participation at this time would undermine the integrity of and public confidence in our league. Accordingly, I have decided to suspend you indefinitely, effective immediately. In due course, we will contact your representatives to schedule a meeting with you, after which I will make a final determination on discipline. Pending my final determination, you will not be permitted to visit the club's facility or participate in any team activities."
A common theme of complaints about Stallworth's light jail sentence was a comparison to the sentence Michael Vick received for participating in the abuse of dogs involved in dogfighting activities. It's not a great comparison, as the particulars of the cases, legally speaking, are very different even though there were clearly heinous crimes committed in each case.
From the NFL's standpoint, though, it makes sense to treat each crime in the same way. Vick remains on indefinite suspension for his crime, and giving Stallworth the same initial punishment is a reasoned response from Goodell. That's doesn't mean there's a moral equivalency between the crimes, because that's not Goodell's job. It means that both Stallworth and Vick violated their privilege to play in the NFL in similar ways, and Goodell's job is to protect the NFL's image by punishing players who do that.
Should he be allowed to play again? He's shown a lot of remorse for his actions, which is the same condition Goodell put on Vick's reinstatement. That said, the language Goodell used and the level of Stallworth's crime makes it seem like a return to the field is a good way down the road.