I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and you can't live in Tuscaloosa without hearing a little bit of the sad goings-on with Ken Stabler. It's been the talk of talk radio for 2 days now, and I'm sure it will be again today. It is apparent that Stabler will probably lose his job as the color analyst for Bama radio broadcasts, a job at which I have to say Stabler is uncommonly good, for being arrested for driving under the influence. He has previously been convicted of DUI twice, both other times were several years ago.
I'm not here to pile on him. I can't help but come at this from my own perspective, which is that of a criminal defense attorney who represents a fair number of people accused of DUI through appointed work, and occasionally through being retained.
I'll share my thoughts after the jump.
1. Driving while Intoxicated is a serious issue, but it's not unforgivable. If you drive while you are intoxicated, you are created a significant risk of tragedy occurring. However unacceptable it is, we also need to realize it is fairly common. A lot of people make the mistake of doing this, and if you want to demonize everyone who has ever done it, or even everyone who has ever been caught, you'll end up demonizing a lot of decent people. I couldn't be a defense lawyer if I thought everyone who ever did a bad thing was also a bad person. Sometimes, decent people do bad things. As a society, we cannot tolerate driving while intoxicated, we also have to come up with a sensible and measured way to not tolerate it, which brings up my second point.
2. A lot of people wrongly believe that if you hold back your ire at all, you are coddling criminals. Ken Stabler will be punished by the criminal justice system. He will not escape the ill effects of this, whatever happens to him. If the University of Alabama also fires him, of course he will suffer more, but if they decline to fire him, that does not mean he is not being punished. Heck, even if the charges are dismissed tomorrow, he's already suffered quite a bit. There has to come a point in time when sensible people will say, "OK, that is enough suffering for this sin." Wherever that point comes, whether it comes from his likely fine, suspended license, and the accompanying embarrassment that is inevitably coming, or whether that point comes from him losing his lucrative job, it has to come at some point. It isn't right and it isn't smart to just keep punishing and punishing and punishing until something else comes along to occupy our minds.
3. On the other hand, Stabler is a public face and voice of the University. Probably the best and most eloquent point in favor of firing Ken Stabler is what Paul Finebaum said about the situation. He wondered how a school can deal with the horrible thing that happened to Siran Stacy's family and still retain Ken Stabler. For those of you who don't know, Siran Stacy is a former Bama player who was in a terrible car accident involving a drunk driver that left him seriously injured and left his wife and 4 of his children dead. That's right. His wife and FOUR of his children. It also, let's not forget, killed the drunk driver. It's a tragedy you can't help but be affected by even if you have never heard of the people involved. It would be awfully difficult for Alabama to turn around, mere months after that horrible incident, and tell Ken Stabler that he can stay in good graces.
4. On the other hand again, if Stabler wasn't a public figure, there's almost no way he'd lose his job over a DUI charge.
If everyone who was accused or convicted of DUI lost his job, our homeless shelters would be full. Or, well, they'd have to turn even more people away than they already do
. But we cannot deny that Stabler is a public figure
, and for better or worse, we expect greater virtue out of our public figures than out of our private figures. Is that right? I don't know. Should we be more forgiving of the guy in the next office than the guy who talks to us over the radio? It's one of those things that's a little hard to argue.
I think that given the public outcry, U of A is left with little choice but to quietly escort him out the door. This will sadly probably lead to Jay Barker replacing him. And if you were with me at GeauxTuscaloosa, you remember my opinion of Jay Barker