A Side Note from Miami: Stallworth Reinstated


Stallworth, back in the driver's seat

Feel free to read the following as part 1 in an argument for why the Super Bowl should be permanently moved to Lincoln, Neb.  Part 2 tomorrow.

About 7,950 hours have passed since the sun rose over Miami Beach on March 14 – which should give you some context for the 1,000 hours of community service and 576 hours of jail time Donte Stallworth received as penalty for his actions on that fateful morning.

On March 14 – March 14, 2009 – the Browns receiver mowed down a crane operator trying to catch a bus on the way home from work.

That was ambiguous. Let me clarify: the crane operator was trying to catch a bus on his way home from work. Stallworth was trying to catch a hot breakfast on the beach after a night of drinking.

At 7:15 a.m. on March 14 – March 14, 2009 – Stallworth dented his sweet, 100-K Bentley with a husband of 20 years, a father of 15.

If you asked Catalina Reyes, or if you asked Daniela Reyes, when exactly each lost a soul mate and parent, respectively, I’m betting they’d rattle off a specific day without pause – because you can do these things when time stops.

They might say to you, again, without pause: March 14, March 14, 2009.

In Stallworth’s defense, he beeped.

He flashed his lights. And Mario Reyes wasn’t in a crosswalk. He was negotiating one of the six lanes of Miami’s MacArthur Causeway.

 Stallworth was only 10 over the speed limit, .04 over the legal limit.

Nevertheless, the NFL star – the NFL star that presumably had a posse, or at least a guy that could hold his keys – slaughtered a man on the morning of March 14 (March 14, 2009).

“Slaughter” sounds gruesome, but this is what the law calls it. Man “slaughter,” which carries a sentence of 4 to 15 years, or 30 days if you’re an NFL star – an NFL star with no one to hold the keys.

If you’re lucky enough to be this type of NFL star, you serve 24 of the 30 days. And if you happen to be in Dade County at the time, you loose your state license for life, which means this kind of thing can never happen again.

Not in Florida, anyway.

Justice prevails

Does this quite avoidable accident make Donte Stallworth a bad guy? Yes, or no. Maybe?

Does this quite avoidable accident mean Donte Stallworth did a bad thing? Yes. Absolutely.

It’s hard to tell if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell thinks Donte Stallworth is a bad guy – you know, because he let him back in the league on Friday.

Goodell apparently feels that Donte has paid his dues. He’s gone a year without pay, spent $200,000 on bail. He also got eight years of probation, which means he’s REALLY going to be in trouble if he ever kills again.

Kills in the next eight years, anyway.

And, you know, it’s hard to tell if Catalina and Daniela Reyes think that Donte Stallworth is a bad guy – because the Reyes family settled out of court for a large, undisclosed sum.

Daniela will not have a father at her wedding, but she will probably go to a very good college. Fair tradeoff?

Rams DE Leonard Little is probably the only man that can relate to Donte Stallworth. He got loaded after a birthday party. Killed a man, too, back in 1998.

Little got the same 1,000 hours of community service and the guilt of taking another life. And, of course, the lesser guilt of taking – and failing – another breathalyzer test seven years later.

Maybe what Leonard can best relate to is the pay cut Stallworth will have to take when the Browns don’t shell out his $1,000,000 roster bonus.

Leonard made a meager $845,000 last season.

Then again, if Stallworth can fetch $845,000 during the 2010 season, he will make approximately $845,000 more than Mario Reyes will make for the rest of time.

This is a pretty good deal for Stallworth, no?

Look, don’t mean to bring you down with all this talk of death.

Just figuring that in all the Super Bowl hoopla – all the triumphant stories about Bourbon Street crazies and Deco Drive night life – you might have missed this little story about a guy who’s all too familiar with both.

And now all too familiar with March 14. March 14, 2009.

– Robbie


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6 responses to “A Side Note from Miami: Stallworth Reinstated

  1. chris wells

    I dont agree with you, it wasnt at all his fault . The guy was running across a highway when it was dark outside .Sober or drunk there is no way neone has the reflexes to stop in that situation.I understand he was over the legal limit but I feel like .04 over the limit does not mean he was drunk in any means. Yes his money an star status helped his situation but he has to live with what he has done and I feel you should cut the guy a break . I know sumone who was in this same situation an is currently in jail for 6 months for manslaughter for an accident that occured late at night that resulted in a girls death .Both were under the influence an he was not at fault in any way but because he drank is now in jail so maybe I have a soft spot but what if this happened to you or your friend ?

  2. bholt11

    Well written piece, but I will have to show some agreement to the argument of the one and only Christopher “Rufus” Wells. There’s no doubt that a death like this is tragic, especially when it strikes a family man like Mario Reyes. However, once you surpass the brutal realization of death, there are legal matters and realistic matters.

    Is drinking and driving smart? No. Stallworth probably has an entourage and should have had someone else driving. But is .04 (the equivalent of a beer or two) enough to where if he was .oo he would have been perfectly capable of avoiding the situation? No.

    As terrible as it sounds to say, a man crossing a six-lane highway away from a crosswalk is taking a great danger. A great danger at the hands of people driving completely sober, much less slightly buzzed.

    Two people made bad decisions that morning and those two decisions combined resulted in a death that puts one decision in fault. No one not named Donte Stallwoth will really know what the situation was exactly like, and if he could have made it better.

    To the ear, it sounds horrible. Plaxico is locked away for a few years for being an idiot and pulling a Cheddar Bob while Stallworth contrasts by getting slapped on the wrist for being involved in the death of a man. However, I think this issue is a little bit more in-depth than an initial reaction.

    Nice post. Much like TNT, Robbie Hilson knows drama.

  3. I agree with you guys on a couple of points: 1) Mario Reyes should not have been crossing a 6 lane highway 2) none of us knows exactly how the crash went down.

    I would also like to point out, however, that .08 is not some arbitrary number. I assume that there’s a difference between .00 and .12. That said, speculating on how “drunk” he was is kind of beside the point… and this is where I take issue with your (Chris and Bryan) defenses.

    We don’t know if he would have been able to avoid hitting this man if he was completely sober (although, I would like to point out that a) Stallworth makes a living off of hand/eye coordination b) it was NOT dark outside at 7:00 a.m. on Miami Beach in March c) he was the guy that actually ran over Reyes, not somebody else who was sober). What we do for sure know is that if he was not drinking, we wouldn’t be talking about this in the same light. I wouldn’t hold Stallworth accountable for this guy’s death, nor would the public, nor would the law. We would all agree that this was a tragic accident that Stallworth couldn’t have avoided (unless you want to get into why he was even out and about at this hour, but I’m not going to turn into Skip Bayless the Curfew Nazi).

    Anyway, I understand it’s a nuanced issue and I appreciate the feedback. And Chris, I get how having a friend in a similar situation might stir some empathy. That said, drinking and driving – 2 beers or 10 – is stupid and indefensible, especially if you’re a professional athlete who has people to do things for you. Again, if Stallworth was sober, he gets a free pass from me. But when you’re rocking a .12 – regardless of how “drunk” this actually makes you – you should expect this kind of criticism and all the repercussions your actions produce.

    A couple of concluding thoughts… Stallworth has to live with the guilt, like you say. But this comes with the territory – I’d venture that most people who do something wrong have to work out the guilt factor. So I don’t think that this should correspond to a lesser punishment, or me cutting the man some slack. Bottom line is, Stallworth killed a guy. He didn’t mean to, but he did, and he was against the law when he did it. I feel bad for him… Still, he should NOT be one of the 1600 guys on this planet who makes a living in the NFL. And if the guilt is so unbearable, how about a job with a non profit talking to college students about the dangers of drinking and driving? I’m sure these exist.

    Thanks again for the response. And keep reading.

  4. chizzo

    Interesting piece. Well written. I don’t agree with all of it. What would put this into perspective is the punishment that Mike Vick got. For causing the death of dogs.

    One hates to play the race or class card, but if this was the daughter of a doctor or a C.E.O. himself that got “mowed down” there would have not been this type of “response” from the courts.

    Before you shout perjury I’ll just say that lying in court is bad, if you do it about committing a crime like dog fighting and lying about steroid use in court or to congress is apparently okay.

    • I imagine the money Stallworth forked over to the family had something to do with the lenient court decision as well. My beef is with Goodell… You’re correct. Vick should not have gotten a harsher penalty than Stallworth. And thanks for reading, Chizz.

  5. Pingback: Two More Side Notes From Miami: Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin « Sports Casualties

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