Donte' Stallworth Screwed Up and Did the Right Thing

Jemele Hill of ESPN sees a big difference between Donte' Stallworth and Plaxico Burress...


Originally posted on ESPN:

Count me among those who seriously questioned whether "justice" was properly meted out to Donte' Stallworth, the NFL wide receiver who spent only 24 days in jail after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter.

Let me restate the obvious for the thousandth time: Michael Vick got almost two years in federal prison for killing dogs. While his harsh sentence stemmed in part from lying to federal authorities and operating an illegal gambling franchise, there's no question Stallworth's jail term made us all wonder about the value of human life.

But putting aside the criticism of the way the judicial system dealt with Stallworth, a lot of athletes who find themselves in serious trouble could learn from the way Stallworth handled a situation that altered his life dramatically.

No matter what you think of Stallworth as a person or your opinion about his sentence, doing the right thing in a crucial moment saved him from suffering the same fate as Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick and spared him from similar public condemnation.

When Stallworth struck and killed Mario Reyes on a Miami causeway, he didn't flee the scene. He called 911 immediately and cooperated with the authorities from the beginning.

That and an undisclosed financial settlement to Reyes' family obviously went a long way with those who decided Stallworth's punishment.

Giving Stallworth credit for doing the right thing may seem odd, but it seems like most athletes choose to compound their wrongdoing with more wrongdoing, which only exacerbates already-problematic situations.

Before accepting a plea bargain that includes a two-year prison term, Burress and his legal team sent the message to New York City prosecutors that Burress was above doing jail time for accidentally shooting himself with an unlicensed firearm in a Manhattan nightclub.

There have been various reports about the plea agreements offered to Burress before the one he took Thursday, but it's quite possible that some of the prosecutors' previous offers would have had him out of jail in less than two years (or 20 months with good behavior). Burress should have known that once New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lashed out against him, he was in a no-win situation.