Stallworth was indefinitely suspended by the NFL commissioner Thursday, two days after he began a 30-day jail sentence for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk in Miami.
Commissioner warns teams
Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a strongly-worded message to high-ranking team officials to advise all employees that alcohol-related crimes will not be tolerated. More …
In a letter to Stallworth, Goodell said Thursday the player’s actions caused “irreparable harm.” He will not be paid while suspended.
Stallworth pleaded guilty this month to a DUI manslaughter charge for striking Mario Reyes on March 14. He began serving a 30-day jail sentence Tuesday and has reached a financial settlement with the family of the 59-year-old construction worker.
After jail, the 28-year-old Stallworth must serve two years of house arrest and spend eight years on probation. The house arrest provisions would allow him to play.
“The conduct reflected in your guilty plea resulted in the tragic loss of life and was inexcusable,” Goodell wrote. “While the criminal justice system has determined the legal consequences of this incident, it is my responsibility as NFL commissioner to determine appropriate league discipline for your actions, which have caused irreparable harm to the victim and his family, your club, your fellow players and the NFL.”
In the letter, excerpts of which were released by the NFL, Goodell said he will eventually contact Stallworth’s representatives before determining the length of the suspension.
“We support the action taken by the commissioner today and will continue to work closely with the League regarding this matter,” Browns general manager George Kokinis said in a statement.
The last indefinite suspension by Goodell was of Adam “Pacman” Jones of the Dallas Cowboys in October 2008. The suspension later became a six-week ban.
In conjunction with his indefinite suspension of Stallworth, Goodell also sent a strongly-worded letter to high-ranking officials of every team to advise all employees — players and likewise — that alcohol-related crimes will not be tolerated.
In that letter, Goodell stated: “In the past few years, I have not hesitated to impose discipline, including suspension, on club and league employees who have violated the law relating to alcohol use. Every club should advise its employees of their obligation and our commitment to hold people accountable for alcohol-related violations of the law.
“Please ensure that your employees are aware of the resources available to them, including Safe Ride and similar programs. Let’s make sure that the 2009 season does not bring more tragedy or embarrassment to ourselves and our employees.”
After a night of drinking at a bar in Miami Beach’s Fountainebleau hotel, police said Stallworth hit Reyes, who was rushing to catch a bus after finishing work about 7:15 a.m. Stallworth told police he flashed his lights in an attempt to warn Reyes, who was not in a crosswalk.
Stallworth had a blood-alcohol level well above Florida’s legal limit. He stopped after the crash and reported the accident. Police estimated Stallworth was driving about 50 mph in a 40 mph zone.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle cited Stallworth’s cooperation and willingness to accept responsibility as factors in the plea deal. Rundle also said the Reyes family – particularly the victim’s 15-year-old daughter – wanted the case resolved to avoid any more pain.
Stallworth also must undergo drug and alcohol testing. His driver’s license was suspended for life and he must perform 1,000 hours of community service.
Stallworth told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy that he hopes to get involved in drunken driving education programs.
“I accept full responsibility for this horrible tragedy,” Stallworth said. “I will bear this burden for the rest of my life.”
Stallworth signed a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Browns before last season but was injured much of the year, finishing with 17 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown. A star at the University of Tennessee, Stallworth has also played in the NFL for New England, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
The night before the crash, Stallworth earned a $4.5 million roster bonus from the Browns, whose offseason moves since have indicated they were not counting on having him available.
They added free-agent wide receiver David Patten this spring and then drafted Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie and Georgia’s Mohamed Massaquoi. Patten is in his second stint with the club after stops with New Orleans, the New York Giants, New England and Washington.
The Browns also released receiver Joe Jurevicius three days before the accident.