30 days hardly a fitting penalty
June 23, 2009
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I was touched by the following article as I thought about the family of Mario Reyes and the value we place (or fail to place) on human life versus sports and celebrity…
30 days hardly a fitting penalty
Stallworth’s sentence sends wrong message
By Mike Lopresti
You drink through the night. You jump in your Bentley in the early morning, and your blood alcohol count could melt a breathalyzer machine.
Down the road, a husband and father is punching the clock to leave his all-night job. He has to take the bus home because he can’t afford a car. He is as far from your world of wealth and privilege as Mercury is from Pluto.
He’s walking to the bus stop and he crosses the street. Maybe he looks and maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he’s too tired to be careful.
But in this moment of fate, he is there when your expensive car rolls by. Pretty soon, Mario Reyes, 59, an anonymous night shift construction crane operator in the wrong place at the wrong time, is dead.
He is not an NFL player. He has not just signed for a multimillion-dollar bonus like you. The first headlines of his life are the last headlines of his life.
And your punishment for driving drunk, for killing a man, for making a wife a widow and a teenage daughter fatherless?
Thirty days. Thirty unfathomable days.
There are moments when it is impossible to look at the world, and sport’s corner of it, and not be utterly dumbfounded. This is one of them.
Donte’ Stallworth, receiver for the Cleveland Browns, stood in judgment Tuesday. He is going to jail for killing a man while driving drunk.
Watch an infomercial tonight. Order a new mattress for better sleep. Chances are, Donte’ Stallworth will be out by the time you get it.
And here’s the really good news, football fans. He’ll be free for training camp! He’ll be ready to go for the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings! He might even catch a touchdown pass, and won’t the crowd roar?
Unless, of course, the NFL says differently. Justice has now plopped onto the desk of Commissioner Roger Goodell. He hasn’t blinked much lately. He certainly better not blink now.
The Reyes family and Stallworth have reached a settlement. The survivors wanted to move on, and who is anyone else to say they shouldn’t? Plus, Stallworth is by all accounts genuinely sorry. He hasn’t been a bad guy in the past.
Fine. Nobody here is saying he’s a repeat felon, so toss him in jail and throw away the key. Nobody suggests he is a hard core criminal.
But he killed a man. Thirty days. Something is very wrong with that.
We have devalued so many things in the modern age. One is accountability. Another is human life. Here, they intersect, and we see how numb we have become to the loss of both. The funeral bills will still be coming after 30 days.
Say you’re sorry and mean it. Write a few checks. Lose your license. All fitting, all proper.
But there should be more. There has to be more. Drunk driving kills a lot of people in this country. Kids, parents, grandparents. This is one lousy message to send.
Disguise it in all the PR and legal spin you want. It is an appalling message to send.
So now it is up to Goodell, who has had to deal with crimes against dogs and now must ponder a crime against a third shift worker from Miami.
The commissioner can’t send Stallworth to jail. The NFL is powerful, but not that powerful. He can send him to the bench.
A one-year suspension seems fair. All 16 games. Mario Reyes’ daughter is going to live without a father a lot longer than that.
Or do we just dismiss Mario Reyes as unlucky, and go on with the season, the pressing issue being whether the Browns can do better than 4-12?