Beacon Sports Commentary: The punishment should fit the crime

By Jose Bautista
Contributing Writer

Public contract disputes, insider information and brawls: It’s all a part of the sports world these days.

Athletes today are getting away with murder. Literally.

Even worse, the law seems to either be too lenient or too extreme in making examples out of these super entertainers.

Take the case of Donte Stallworth, who happens to be a prime example. On March 14 of this year, the Cleveland Browns receiver hit and killed a man with his car in Miami.

Stallworth, legally drunk at the time of the accident, pled guilty to DUI and manslaughter charges. He was given only 30 days in jail, and served 24 out of the assigned time.

The harshest punishment given to him was not even the jail time, but having his license suspended for the rest of his life.

Probation, community service, none of that cuts it in this case. There was public outrage, and deservedly so, over the time given to Stallworth. He is currently serving a season-long suspension from the NFL.

Michael Vick, on the other hand, served close to two years for his federal dog fighting charges. Regardless of how many of you are dog owners and lovers, there is a legitimate problem with the justice system when comparing these two cases.

Be famous and kill a human while drunk: 30 days in the clink is fine.

Kill some dogs: your career is threatened, and you’re done in the eyes of everyone.

Both athletes are obviously wrong in their actions. I’d just like some rational punishment to be handed out in accordance with the crimes.

LeGarrette Blount’s case is another one full of ridiculous reasoning.

The University of Oregon’s star running back in his senior year was involved in a post-game altercation with a Boise State player.

Moments after the win over Oregon, Boise State defensive end Byron Hout taunted Blount and proceeded to tap him on the shoulder. What occurred next would be played repeatedly on ESPN and debated all over the sports world.

Enraged, and probably embarrassed, Blount punched Hout in the mouth and proceeded to confront Boise State fans, coming into close contact with them while being restrained and led to the locker room. He later apologized publicly for his behavior.

The next day, Blount was suspended for the remainder of the 2009 season by head coach of the Oregon Ducks, Chip Kelly.

Last week, the Oregon Daily Emerald, the school newspaper of the Oregon Ducks, published an apology letter from Blount that led to his now possible reinstatement later this season.

I am completely against reinstating Blount, but not for punching the Boise State player. Right or wrong, I actually found the punch to be hilarious. Hout asked for it, as barbaric as the behavior was on both sides. Any time someone is provoked, it’s only a matter of time before you get what you were looking for.

However, Blount’s reaction to the booing and taunting from fans was unacceptable.

Any time fans are endangered by an athlete maliciously and purposely, action must be taken swiftly. This is exactly what the Oregon program did.

For them to now waffle on their decision and flip-flop on the hammer they brought down sends the wrong message in sports once again: Do what you want. Just apologize for it later in the paper. All will be “fixed” eventually.

This incident has ties to the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons “Malice at the Palace” of 2004, arguably the nastiest brawl in sports history.

Both NBA teams embarrassed the sport, not because of the bickering that led to the brawl, but because the fans, while behaving inappropriately, were endangered.

The Pacers’ Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson, along with Pistons forward Ben Wallace, were suspended for numerous games depending on their involvement.

Artest, the fire starter behind the incident, caught the worst of it all, missing 73 games and losing out on close to $7 million in salary.

People fail to realize that this is assault and battery.

What Blount did, along with the players involved with the Detroit Palace brawl, was physically harm another person.

You would think athletes would learn their lesson from the recent string of criminal charges brought against their peers. Nope, not at all. Instead, they just find new ways to get in trouble.

Athletes need to be held accountable for their actions. This means all athletes, not just some.

Any crime that involves harm to another living creature — whether it’s a fan, another player or even the Taco Bell dog — needs to be taken seriously. Those involved need to be punished fairly and correctly.

If we do not accomplish this soon and show athletes that they are in the national moral spotlight, we’re just teaching future athletes that it’s all right to behave in any manner you choose.

As long as you’re famous and have money, any punishment you receive is just a slap on the wrist compared to what us “normal” people would have to go through.

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