The NFL Players Association is clearly grasping at straws in attempting to prevent players from driving under the influence.
It was announced on Wednesday that the NFLPA was partnering up with Uber Technologies to make it even easier for players to get safe rides wherever they are. Players will soon be able to use their smartphones to summon car services via an app. The Uber locations, according to an ESPN story, include “nearly 20 NFL cities and Pro Bowl host Honolulu.” The New York Times reported that players will even be given credits “totaling $200” that are meant to further entice them to use the app rather than drive while under the influence.
Drunk driving has become a significant issue among NFL personnel over the past several years. 17 players were popped for DUI offenses in 2012. Former Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in 2009, was charged with intoxicated manslaughter last December following an accident, which featured Brent as the driver of the vehicle, that killed teammate Jerry Brown. Denver Broncos executives Tom Heckert and Matt Russell were both arrested on DUI charges this past offseason. Heckert, arrested in June, reportedly registered more than twice the legal limit on his breath test. Russell, nabbed nearly one month later, allegedly hit two vehicles, including a parked cop car, before being arrested.
What's most infuriating about Wednesday's announcement is the unintentional implication that it has been a lack of convenience that has caused all of these DUI cases involving NLF personalities popping up over the past several years. The NFLPA already has a “Safe Rides” program in place, one that is available “anywhere in the United States and Canada.” That program costs players $85 an hour, a small price to pay for somebody who, even at league minimum, is still making at least hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. There are also, of course, the standard cab and car services located in every city in the US that are a Google or Yelp search away.
In all fairness, the NFLPA does deserve at least a little credit for doing something about an issue that has been out of control for far too long. The problem with the union's latest idea is that there's no reason to believe it will make that much of a difference. Players have been told for years that a safe car ride home was only a phone call away. If an intoxicated millionaire isn't willing to dial seven to ten digits to hail a cab, why should anybody believe that same individual will open and operate a smartphone app?
“The only way the NFL can really crack down on these cases is to implement serious fines and serious suspensions,” one person within the league told me during a conversation that took place last year. Threatening to sideline a player who gets busted for DUI for up to half the season, which would also result in that individual losing more than just a few thousand dollars of his salary, would, in theory, force drunk players into thinking twice before getting behind the wheel. Whether or not the NFLPA would sign off on such severe punishments is not yet known.