There is a lot of talk about suspending Aldon Smith for 8 games, the season, cutting him, etc. Now, here is what he has done.
- DUI with a charge of knowingly possessing an illegal firearm. Note that this is still in court.
- Altercation with TSA over a false bomb threat. There was a rumor (unverified) that he was drinking beforehand; however, this is not in the report as far as I know.
Some other facts that we know: Aldon Smith went to rehab for six games and was paid while going. Aldon Smith also has no other DUI’s on record. (The argument can be made about Florida, but that was reduced to reckless driving.) This will matter later.
Now, what should his punishment be?
This depends. One, is he guilty? I’m going to say yes to the DUI charge, but there is a good chance of the illegal firearm charge not sticking. It is an intent law, and if Aldon didn’t know he was breaking the law, then he is not guilty. It ultimately will depend on what happens with the TSA incident, and if there is official notice of alcohol being involved.
This is because of the substance abuse policy. As far as alcohol, here is an excerpt.
League rules for alcohol related violations or abuse of alcohol: Absent aggravating circumstances, discipline for a first offense will generally be a fine of two-seventeenths (2/17) of the amount in Paragraph 5 of the NFL Player Contract to a maximum of $50,000. If the Commissioner finds that there were aggravating circumstances, including but not limited to felonious conduct or serious injury or death of third parties, and/or if the player has had prior drug or alcohol-related misconduct, increased discipline up to and including suspension may be imposed. Discipline for a second or subsequent offense is likely to be a suspension, the duration of which may escalate for repeat offenses. (National Football League Policy and Program for Substance of Abuse, Section III-B)
Now, note that it says it’s typically a 2/17ths fine. Here is where it can get vague. The league states "and/or if the player has had prior … alcohol-related misconduct" is usually necessary for any sort of suspension. The 2012 Florida incident is officially "reckless driving", but the league could argue that alcohol was involved in it and call it an "aggravating circumstance". The argument can be made either way.
However, I’m going to argue for an at most 3 game suspension for Aldon Smith and a 2 game fine. I’m going to point to past precedent for the reason why:
In February, Jackson was sentenced to four days in jail and five years of probation after pleading guilty to a DUI charge stemming from a January 2009 arrest. In January of this year, Jackson was pulled over while on his way to the team's divisional playoff loss to the New York Jets and arrested for driving with a suspended license and an expired registration. … Because it was his second DUI conviction, Jackson was subject to the NFL’s Personal Conduct policy.)
Not enough reason you say? Let’s look at some non-PED suspensions.
Longer suspensions (8 games or more)
Anthony Hargrove – 8 games for involvement in bounty program
Jonathan Vilma – 2012 season for involvement in bounty program
Plaxico Burress – 4 games plus time of incarceration for accidental shooting of self
Donte Stallworth – 2009 season for crashing into and killing a pedestrian while DUI
Adam Jones – 2007 season for attacking a stripper and threatening a security guard’s life
Terry Johnson – 8 games for Alleged possession of six firearms and violation of probation on other charges
Michael Vick – 2 games for involvement in dog fighting case. (Ended up being more due to his incarceration, but there you go.)
Shall we equate Aldon Smith's actions, as bone-headed as we may think they are, to anything listed above? Britt and Berry were the only ones we can get close to resembling, and they were one game and three games respectively.
I have one final argument about why it shouldn’t be any more than 3 games.
An interesting read here. In the General Policy of the National Football League Policy and Program for Substance of Abuse (my emphasis):
The NFL and the National Football League Players Association ("NFLPA") have maintained policies and programs regarding substance abuse. In Article XLIV, Section 6(a) of the 1993 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, as extended and amended (the "CBA"), the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA (hereinafter referred to individually as "Party" and collectively as the "Parties") reaffirmed that "substance abuse is unacceptable within the NFL, and that it is the responsibility of the parties to deter and detect substance abuse . . . and to offer programs of intervention, rehabilitation, and support to players who have substance abuse problems." Accordingly, in fulfillment of this provision of the CBA, the Parties have agreed upon the following terms of a policy regarding substance abuse in the NFL (hereinafter referred to as the"Policy").
Does the NFL honestly want to rehabilitate and support their players? Or are they empty words? Is the NFL more concerned about its "image"? What type of "image" will it portray if they violate their own words?
This doesn't mean Smith should get a free pass, and if he gets busted for a DUI again then he will (and should!) face the wrath of Goodell. But those calling for huge punishments/fines are way off base considering what the NFL has done in the past.
Three games suspension and two games of fines. I’d even be happy if they tacked on one more game of each for the TSA incident. However, any more than that and it’ll be a gross injustice.
Author's Note: I originally sourced the article in Wikipedia here for the suspension information and looked at the other sources it linked to.