Last fall, the subject of one of my “Pass the Word” columns was drunk driving, and how it had become a quiet plaque among us. Still, hardly a day goes by without reading how someone under the influence got behind the wheel of a car and, well, the news is rarely good.
At that time, Sacramento’s rookie coach, Eric Musselman, had just been pulled over by local cops when he made a right turn from a left lane and cut off another car. He failed three sobriety tests. His blood alcohol was .11 (the legal limit is .8) I argued that there seemed to be a double-standard in league sanctions levied against coaches relative to athletes. Did the guys in suits deserve better than the guys who sweat?
Thankfully, the doubled-standard has closed somewhat since then. In December, the NFL’s new commissioner, Roger Goodell, suspended Detroit Lions defensive line coach Joe Cullen for a game and fined him $20,000 for “conduct detrimental to the league.” Cullen had already been arrested twice during the preseason, for nude driving (I truly do not even want to think about this) in August and drunken driving in September. Lions head coach Rod Marinelli suspended Cullen for the season opener but Goodell decided further action was needed.
This week, Musselman was suspended two games without pay after pleading no contest to the charge against him in Sacramento County Surperior Court. A first-time offender, he was ordered to pay $580 in fines and penalities, (For punishment, a no-contest plea is viewed exactly like a guilty plea.)
Players and coaches in all sports often talk of being “in it together.” If that’s the case, there should be no difference in penalities for misdeeds simply because one man wears a suit.