NFL: Public Misconduct Still an Issue

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell watches teams warm up prior to the start of Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It’s getting pretty obvious that the NFL needs to protect their players from their own reckless behavior. You read about it every day, as these well-paid athletes continually put themselves in criminal situations.

The San Diego Union-Tribune published a report that stated 25 percent of all NFL players have been arrested on drunk-driving charges, with the latest being New York Jets WR Braylon Edwards at 5 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a reputation of being a hard disciplinarian but at times his actions have been mystifying. He has come down hard with severe penalties to players on other criminal or personal conduct matters (Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Ben Roethlisberger) but his stance on drunk driving crimes is still unclear.

The league has a gun to its head, as its entire marketing plan is firmly based around excessive alcohol consumption.

Whether it’s opening the stadium’s parking lots for early-morning tailgating on game day or showcasing the endless amount of beer commercials during game broadcasts. It could be a costly move for them to severely reprimand against alcohol-related incidents, as they receive a large amount of advertising dollars from beer companies (their $500 million deal with Coors expires after this season).

Ideally, the Jets could have set precedent by deactivating Edwards for Sunday’s game and possibly sacrificing a division win in order to protect their reputation with the general public.

Instead, their punishment was a joke, as they benched him for one quarter in the game against the Miami Dolphins. You cannot slap Edwards on the wrist after acquiring him with full knowledge of his past discretions (among others punching out LeBron James’ friend outside a nightclub) in Cleveland.

Once again, they raised their middle finger to authority and boldly declared that no player’s behavior will stand in their way of playing in the Super Bowl this February.

Jets' head coach Rex Ryan is a puzzle to me, but you cannot argue with his success. He is bright, outspoken and appears to have his team going in the right direction. Ryan has created a “kiss-my-ass” attitude in the locker-room, but we won’t know until the end of the season whether he is part of the problem or part of the solution.

The league is making steps to rectify this growing problem, as they have begun a safe-ride program in each NFL city. Players can request a driver for the evening free of charge to them.

Drunk driving is an offense that endangers the lives of everyone involved, regardless if you’re under the influence of alcohol or an innocent bystander. The league cannot appear to have the “inmates-run-the-asylum” mentality and still maintain good business practices.

The majority of NFL players are good individuals, but the percentage of them getting involved in alcohol-related incidents is growing at an alarming rate. And unfortunately, everyone’s reputation is getting tainted.