Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 The NFL has suspended Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth without pay for the 2009 season because of violations of the league's substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies, the NFL announced this morning.
On June 18, Commissioner Roger Goodell put Stallworth on indefinite suspension. Goodell met with Stallworth and his and NFL players union representatives earlier this month. The league disclosed that Goodell also met privately with Stallworth on Aug. 10 at Stallworth's request.
Stallworth will be reinstated by the NFL following the Super Bowl in February 2010. Until that time, he cannot participate in any Browns activity during the 2009 season. The Browns will get a credit on this year's cap for Stallworth's $745,000 base salary. They still must honor the $4.5 million roster bonus, and, in fact, have paid $2.25 million already.
This afternoon, Stallworth released an official statement:
Commissioner Goodell called me this morning. Obviously, I am disappointed, but, as I said previously, I accept the Commissioner's decision. Regardless of the length of my suspension, I will carry the burden of Mr. Reyes' death for the rest of my life.
“I urge NFL fans not to judge NFL players or me based on my tragic lapse in judgment. I am a good person who did a bad thing. I will use the period of my suspension to reflect, fulfill my obligations, and use this experience to make a positive impact on the lives of those who look up to NFL players.”
The NFL this morning released the content of Goodell's letter to Stallworth:
As you recognized both at and following the hearing, guilt or innocence as a matter of criminal law is not the same as a violation of NFL policies. Here, longstanding league policies make clear that discipline is warranted “if a player is convicted of or admits to a violation of the law…relating to the use of alcohol.” The degree of discipline may take into account “aggravating circumstances, including but not limited to felonious conduct or felonious injury or death of third parties…”
All of those factors are present here. There is no question that your actions had tragic consequences to an innocent man and his family, and that you have violated both the Substances of Abuse and Personal Conduct Policies. In that respect, you are clearly guilty of conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL.
Nor do I find that the outcome in the Florida courts is controlling in terms of determining disciplinary consequences within the NFL. The considerations that applied in Florida, particularly with respect to criminal standards of proof, claims of contributory negligence, consideration of crowded court dockets, and the like, do not enter into this decision. Without regard to the merits of the disposition of the criminal case, I believe that further consequences are necessary.
In my view, the essential facts are that you had alcohol in your system well above the legal limit, made a conscious decision to drive, and struck and killed a man. As you recognize, this conduct and the loss of life has caused serious damage to the NFL and NFL players generally. Legal arguments that focus on criminal liability under Florida law do not diminish that damage or your responsibility for your conduct.
Despite a repeated emphasis on the importance of avoiding driving under the influence of alcohol, you chose to drive under circumstances where you were legally impaired. And you did so even though safe and confidential alternatives, such as the “Safe Ride” program, were available to you. Your conduct endangered yourself and others, leading to the death of an innocent man. The NFL and NFL players must live with the stain that you have placed on their reputations.
About the Author
Written by Ryan Carey