The NFL has many, many problems (concussions, players getting paid for knocking other players out of games, and gun-ownership rates all come to mind), but the easiest to fix is its drinking and driving issue. On the heels of Jerry Brown’s death and Josh Brent’s arrest, the senselessness of the act we’ve almost all been guilty of has come front and center.
The drinking problem is beyond comprehension especially because pro athletes have more than enough means to avoid getting behind the wheel with an illegal blood-alcohol content. They can pay for cabs or private drivers, and the league offers free rides in major cities for players who have had one too many. For Brent to allegedly be operating a car with any booze in his system after pleading guilty to drunken driving in June 2009 defies all logic. At the very least, repeat offenders should face long-term suspensions.
So here’s to hoping the NFL office — and the NFL Players Association, for that matter — is in full-scale crisis mode today. Don’t give us moments of silence, somber press releases or predictable words about how sad a week this has been. Give us something that is tangible, something that can help these players avoid future disasters.
Give us the one thing that has been missing in the first place: a serious plan of action.
Brown’s death marked the third time since 1998 that an NFL player killed another person because of suspected DUI. Brent’s arrest also marked the 18th time this year that an NFL player has been arrested on suspicion of DUI – up from seven in 2011 and not far behind the worst NFL DUI years in recent history: 20 in 2006 and 19 in 2009. On average, NFL players are arrested for DUI about 13-14 times a year.
If there is one NFL trend that may be exposing itself here is that players, perhaps in higher numbers than expected, are partying hard on Friday night with a game normally less than 48 hours later.
Young people are going to go out. That’s unlikely to ever change, but maybe teams, or the league overall, can focus on providing safe rides or significant reminders on that night of the week. Who knows? Let there be more discussion on potential solutions.