The National Football League will kick off its 95th season tonight under the shadow of growing turmoil in Iraq and rising tensions between the United States and Russia.
OK, so those story lines aren’t really related at all, but the disparate matters of professional football and national security did intersect this week at the Huffington Post.
The new media empire announced Wednesday that Donte Stallworth, a former NFL wide receiver who had spells with six different teams during his 10-year playing career, will be joining the site as a fellow covering national security.
Stallworth offered a cryptic preview of the hire on Twitter, a vehicle he’s used to weigh-in on various social and political matters.
— Donte’ Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) September 3, 2014
Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post, praised Stallworth in a statement.
“Donte has a quick mind, an insatiable curiosity and a passion for politics — the necessary qualities of a great journalist,” Grim said, according to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.
But as Wemple noted, it didn’t take long for the hire to draw scrutiny, including from some who questioned why an ex-football player landed the fellowship instead of a young, aspiring journalist.
Stallworth’s past has also fueled criticism, particularly from conservative outlets. In 2009, Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter after he killed a pedestrian while driving drunk in Florida, leading to a 30-day jail sentence and a year-long suspension from the league.
Earlier this year, on the five-year anniversary of the deadly accident, Stallworth issued a public mea culpa on his Instagram account, urging his followers to avoid driving while intoxicated.
“We obviously believe in redemption and second chances,” Grim said.
But some of his other social media activity has also come in for criticism following his hire by HuffPost. In a pair of tweets written in 2009, Stallworth appeared to expose himself as a 9/11 truther.
“Gggrrrrrrrrrrrrr @ ppl who actually believe a plane hit the pentagon on 9/11… hole woulda been ASTRONOMICALLY bigger, God bless lost lives,” Stallworth wrote in one tweet.
He elaborated on that point in a subsequent tweet a short time later.
“NO WAY 9/11 was carried out by ‘dying’ Bin Laden, 19 men who couldn’t fly a damn kite. STILL have NO EVIDENCE Osama was connected, like Iraq,” he added.
It’s been a busy year for Stallworth on the employment front. In June, he joined the Baltimore Ravens, one of his former teams, as a coaching intern.
Update: Stallworth took to Twitter later on Thursday to say that his views have changed and he is no longer a 9/11 truther.