The NFL has been under constant criticism for some time now regarding player arrests, and that image has gotten even worse over the past few months as it relates to DUIs.
On Friday morning, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested on suspicion of DUI, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN.
49ers OLB Aldon Smith was arrested at 7 a.m. today under suspicion of DUI, according to San Jose Police.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) September 20, 2013
Aldon Smith was determined to be the driver in a single-vehicle accident, according to San Jose Police. Nobody was injured.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) September 20, 2013
There have been plenty of other arrests this year. The San Diego Union-Tribune keeps track of all arrests in the NFL, and since the start of the new year there have been 42. Of those 42 arrests, 11 of them have been related to alcohol. The Smith arrest now puts that number at 12.
This brings up a serious question: Why do NFL player keep getting arrested?
The average NFL player makes around $1 million per year, enough to live a comfortable life. Players like Smith, who has a base salary of $1.68 million in 2013, have the potential to make even more money over their careers after their first NFL contracts are over.
With how much money players make, why don't they hire drivers? Even call a cab? I just did an online search for a personal designated driver, and as a college student even I could probably afford it. I found a personal chauffeur service that charges about $20 per hour to drive you around.
If I can do that as a college student that works through school, I think a professional athlete can afford it.
To make things worse, the NFL has a service that encourages players to call a driver rather than drive home on their own. According to Forbes, the NFL Players Association reached an agreement with Uber earlier this month for players to use the app and have drivers take them home. The report says:
As an incentive, players will get a $200 credit to use the service. Uber and the NFLPA will give personalized keychain cards with the credits attached to active NFL players. The NFLPA will be getting the word out about the program in September. ”The goal for us is to change behavior,” said DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association executive director, in a conference call with reporters.
Programs like this one have been used before. The NFL used to have a Safe Rides program, but not a lot of players took advantage of it. Mike Freeman wrote a piece on the subject back in June of last year, talking about the issues players had with trusting the former program. Freeman said:
Some players believe the NFL puts hidden microphones and cameras into the vehicles. Others believe the drivers are spies for the league or, if they aren't, the drivers would sell any potential embarrassing information to tabloid newspapers. One player believed the limo drivers might plant embarrassing information on the player and then blackmail him.
Crazy, yes. Extreme paranoia? Definitely yes. But one reason given was actually sensible. One player source says teams will use the number of times a player activates the service when contract time arrives and then use that information against the player. It's allegedly happened on several occasions.
Some of those concerns could make sense to a player who has a reputation to maintain, but most of those worries should have now gone away. The NFLPA took over the program last year in the hopes of continuing to provide the service and eliminating the fear of embarrassing information being leaked.
Unfortunately, players are still getting arrested for getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
I get it, players like to party. Who can blame them? On Friday nights, when you have money to spend, you like to go out and have fun. I go to school in Bloomington, Indiana, and parties are a part of college and being in your 20s.
What isn't acceptable, however, is deciding to drive after drinking.
This is something I've had to deal with in my own life at a young age. After Super Bowl XLI in 2006, my mom tried to drive me back to my dad's house while intoxicated. I can't explain to you the fear that comes with being in the car with someone who is drunk behind the wheel, especially for my little brother, who was just nine years old at the time.
I have a huge moral problem with drunk driving. While drunk driving fatalities have declined from 1991 to 2011, they're still at a number that is simply not okay.
The mentality from players is that they won't get caught. Even some of the biggest names in the sports have been arrested. Justin Blackmon, a former first-round and top-five pick, was arrested for a DUI back in 2012 and it still trying to fix his reputation. Kenny Britt, another receiver with big-time potential, was arrested for a DWI last year as well.
Hopefully the NFLPA will address the situation once again after Friday's event. Still, the mentality needs to change, and the players need to be aware of the services provided to them.