National Football League
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell notified Donte' Stallworth of the Cleveland Browns on Thursday that he is suspended without pay for the 2009 season for violating both the NFL's policy on substances of abuse and the personal conduct policy.
On June 16, Stallworth pled guilty to DUI/Manslaughter, a second degree felony in Florida, resulting from a March 14 incident in which he struck and killed a pedestrian while driving under the influence of alcohol.
Stallworth will be reinstated after the Super Bowl in February 2010. He may not participate in any team activity during the 2009season.
Goodell had suspended Stallworth indefinitely on June 18. On August 5, the commissioner conducted a hearing and met in person with Stallworth, his representatives and NFLPA officials. He also met privately with Stallworth on August 10 at the player's request.
Following are excerpts from 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." Stallworth suspended without pay for 2009 season