NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided Donte Stallworths football punishment should last much longer than his 24 days in jail.
The Cleveland Browns receiver, who pleaded guilty to killing a pedestrian while driving drunk, was suspended without pay yesterday for the season. He is barred from team activities until he is reinstated after the Super Bowl.
Your conduct endangered yourself and others, leading to the death of an innocent man, Goodell wrote in a letter to Stallworth released by the league. The NFL and NFL players must live with the stain that you have placed on their reputations.
Stallworth struck Mario Reyes, 59, the morning of March 14 in Miami. Stallworth pleaded guilty June 16 to DUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and was suspended indefinitely by Goodell two days later.
Regardless of the length of my suspension, I will carry the burden of Mr. Reyess death for the rest of my life, Stallworth said in a statement. 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.
Stallworth, 28, drew a 30-day jail sentence and reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the family of Reyes, who was leaving his job as a crane operator when killed.
Goodell said he didnt take the sentence into account in determining if Stallworth violated the leagues substance abuse and personal conduct policies. The commissioner held a hearing with Stallworth, his representatives, and union officials Aug. 5. He also met privately with Stallworth Monday at the players request.
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, Goodell wrote.
Stallworth signed a seven-year, $35 million contract in 2008 and received a $4.5 million roster-signing bonus the night before the crash. He will lose the remaining $745,000 on his deal for 2009.