Roger Goodell has become notorious for doling out fines and suspensions to NFL Players. He has drawn criticism from a fair number of players for the zeal and inconsistency with which he hands down fines for hard hits, even hits that are deemed legal by the referees on the field. While the line between what is and isn't a legal hit has become murkier, one thing is abundantly clear: Roger Goodell wants his league to be straight-laced.
I've never met Donte Stallworth. I saw him play a few times in college, and I've seen a few of his games in the NFL. I don't know if he speaks with a Scottish accent or prefers soy milk to dairy. Like everyone else, I've read the publicly released facts of the incident he was involved in. Before spending his court-determined 30 days in jail, a contrite Stallworth made amends with the family of the man he struck and killed. That doesn't in any way excuse what happened, but it does show that Stallworth at least cares enough to try. What you may not have yet seen is that Stallworth has been suspended indefinitely by the league.
After Lofa Tatupu was arrested for a DUI, he received no suspension. Odell Thurman initially received a 4-game suspension for his latest DUI, which then was stretched into a year because of his fairly extensive history. Jared Allen received a 4-game suspension only after his second DUI within a year. Marshawn Lynch was involed in a hit-and-run incident and received only 3 games of suspension. I understand that Stallworth's actions had a much more grave outcome, but the mistake he made is identical to that of the other four players while the punishment will likely be vastly different.
The suspension then is based not just on the decisionmaking of Stallworth but rather on the bad luck of the circumstances. What happened is sad and regrettable, but to some extent Stallworth is being punished for generating bad PR. I understand that it's within Goodell's right as Commissioner to make that call, but I'd like consistency out of the man running the league. Just because Jared Allen and Odell Thurman were lucky enough to not hit someone doesn't mean they made better decisions. In fact, they made the same bad decision multiple times. Lynch hit a pedestrian and drove off without accepting responsibility for his actions, yet somehow it's Stallworth and his zero prior incidents are set to become an example of the league.
*It's worth noting that I have very little sympathy for Stallworth. He will have to live with this for the rest of his life, and hopefully he does something good with that.