Not only do players have the financial resources to pay for a car service for the night – or to just catch a cab home when it is clear they have consumed so much alcohol that they put their and others’ lives at risk.
But the league and its players union have implemented programs to prevent the kind of tragedy that befell the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday morning, when a car driven by allegedly impaired Josh Brent crashed, causing the death of Jerry Brown.
The teammates were close friends from college and lived together. Brent was charged with intoxicated manslaughter, and his life as he knew it is over. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to driving while drunk.
This should not happen. It is totally avoidable. NFL teams and the Players Association both provide a service for $85 an hour that would get any player that dials the number a ride home. It’s called the Safe Ride program. You call, they come. Pretty simple, right?
And yet, most players refuse to use the service. And guess why? According to Mike Freemen, an NFL insider for CBSSports.com, players claim they pass on the safe route because they do not “trust” that their business will not be leaked to team management or sold by drivers to sensational news organizations.
They have even told Freeman that they believe the teams planted hidden microphones in the car. Talk about paranoia. And apparently, they are minimally using the union-sponsored service. And guess why? They love to drive their own fancy cars.
OK, sure, understandable. But when the night is done and the alcohol has taken over, it is then time to make a smart decision. Call a cab. Or bring a designated driver.
Last summer, if you will recall, three NFL players were arrested for DUI over six days. Six. The NFL was embarrassed and puzzled. What else can it do? There is an “it-won’t-happen-to-me” attitude that somehow still exists, instead of an “I-won’t-let-it-happen-to-me” disposition.
And it is not limited to NFL players. NBA, Major League Baseball players, boxers, too, have been arrested for the same thing. This is not to pick on pro athletes. Their deaths are no more horrific and devastating than anyone else.
The difference is that they, generally, are high-profile personalities that draw the media’s attention at every false step. It just seems ridiculous that they have programs in place – and the financial ability to protect themselves from themselves — but refuse to do so.
Everyone was touched and moved by Brown’s death. Players shed tears and realized that could have been them. Now, let’s see how soon before another player gets arrested for driving while intoxicated. Sadly, it will not be long. That’s not cynicism. That’s being realistic.
When Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive in 1991, athletes across the globe professed that they would change their lives and wild social behavior. Three weeks later, it was back to cruddy business as usual.
Georgia Tech assistant basketball coach Josh Postorino was arrested last week for DUI while on a recruiting trip in Jacksonville, Fla. Jacksonville happens to be where Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon plays. Blackmon had two DUIs before he ever played an NFL game. The list of professional athletes or former pros who have been locked up for DUI is as long as a football field.
Former Georgia athletic director Damon Evans, one of the few African-Americans in his position at a major college, lost his dream job in 2010 when he was arrested for DUI in Atlanta – hours before a new contract went into effect that would have given him about a $500,000 raise. He now works in obscurity the financial business in Boston.
Many times these stories about athletes’ issues could be resolved or prevented if there was one person in their crew who said: “If you’re drinking tonight, I’m not drinking.”
On Friday, a friend said he was staying in an Atlanta hotel for a conference, but had a holiday party to attend that night about five miles away. “I think I’m going to catch a cab to the event,” he said. “No need in putting myself in jeopardy.”
A Johnnie Walker commercial shows one guy drinking at a party picking up a glass of the beverage and making eye contact with his buddy across the room, who had what looked to be a club soda in his hand. A voice is heard saying, “Here’s to best friends – and designated drivers.”
Let’s hope that message resounds in all communities.