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Athlete DUIs deserve harsher punishments

This is not a post about just Jason Richardson.

This is a post about Charles Barkley, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Adams and most certainly Donte Stallworth.

And although this post will focus on athletes in particular, this post is about anyone who has ever gotten behind the wheel after having a few too many.

According to DUILimit.com, 135 million Americans drink, 21 million Americans drink and drive at least once per year, 1.5 million are arrested for DUI every year, and 18,000 people die in alcohol/traffic-related deaths every year. You can practically fill US Airways Center with the number of people who die because of a drunk driver every year.

Thank God, this was not the result in Richardson’s case. But because he was cited for driving with a BAC above the legal limit of .08 along with failing to stay in one lane, he greatly increased the chances of this being the result of his early morning jaunt.

Donte Stallworth wasn’t so lucky. Stallworth, an NFL receiver, killed a man while driving with a BAC of .126, which is well above the legal limit.

It actually happened, the worst-case scenario when someone gets behind the wheel drunk.

Even then, Stallworth only only sentenced to a month in jail, two years under house arrest and eight years of probation after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter. Thankfully, the NFL suspended him for the entire 2009 season, but even with that I feel like he’s getting off easy.

The thing is I don’t think people in general and professional athletes in particular take drunk driving seriously enough. I mean, one of my best friends in college owned a Breathalyzer not so he could be sure never to drive drunk but so he would know how drunk he was if a cop ever pulled him over.

A guy like Richardson has enough millions to hire anybody to drive him wherever he needs to go, and considering the speeding with a child unrestrained in the back incident, that might not be a bad idea for J-Rich.

The case of former UA guard Hassan Adams was most ridiculous because he was cited for driving under the influence when he had a sober passenger in the car.

Adams ended up getting the most minor slap on the wrist by being suspended for the Pac-10 tourney despite being cited for a BAC in the .12 range, which means he missed just one game when Arizona lost in the first round; he was back in time to lead the Wildcats to a first-round victory in the NCAA Tournament. Beyond the fact that Hassan hasn’t been relevant since, that’s a joke of a penalty for such a potentially serious crime.

And that brings us to the J-Rich punishment. We’re all lucky this was only two games because if something horrible had happened it wouldn’t be two games.

It would likely be 82 games if the Stallworth judgment is any precedent.

Sure, J-Rich will be missing out on $242,424 due to the suspension, but I doubt he’ll feel it because of the other $13 million he’ll be making this season. It’s not going to make a dent on his bottom line the way legal fees and fines alone do for the average person getting a DUI.

Also, pro athletes should be held to a higher standard than your average Chick-Fil-A server who pleads guilty to DUI because they are role models, no matter what Barkley thinks. When an 18-year-old Suns fan sees a guy like J-Rich get a DUI with a (comparatively) light fine, jail sentence  and suspension, it doesn’t send a serious enough message.

Driving drunk is an epidemic in this country. It kills.

This isn’t to say I think J-Rich should be traded because of his mistake (although he’s lucky Jerry Colangelo doesn’t run this show anymore). He deserves a second chance.

But the next time an athlete (or anybody really) thinks about getting in a car after chugging a few too many, they should think of this:

Donte Stallworth.

Tags: Jason Richardson

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