How does one reconcile the party lifestyle of a professional football player with responsible activities? While certain programs are put in place to try and educate players and encourage them to only exercise wise choices, the reality is that a disproportionate number of players find themselves drinking and driving.
Like other professional athletes, football players are also human, but the access to an endless supply of drugs and alcohol can leave too many making bad choices. And, despite the exorbitant salaries and celebrity status, these individuals are not above the law. Their actions would suggest that they believe differently, however, and they put individuals at risk in the process.
A study completed by the San Diego Union-Tribune found that since the year 2000, 28 percent of arrests of NFL players have been related to drunken driving. In fact, a minimum of 73 players on NFL rosters for the 2008 season were arrested on charges of driving while under the influence. And, while it may appear the organization was on a fast spiral downwards, the good news is progress is working in a positive direction.
In June of 2008, MADD chief development officer, Cathey Wise contacted the then vice president of player development for the NFL and opened a dialogue on how to change this trend. While the two organizations are still reportedly in talks to outline a strategy to work together, nothing concrete has been decided as the league continues to try and handle those players who engage in activities that result in the death of an innocent person.
There are some who question the leagues ties with alcohol producers. For instance, the league received $500 million from Coors in 2005 to ensure the brewer was the NFL’s official beer through 2010. Cutting ties with alcohol partners could be financially devastating for the league. There are some who would argue that the mere availability of alcohol does not push the individual to drink beyond capacity and then get behind the wheel.
As long as professional football players want to mix alcohol with pleasure, however, they need to determine a way to do so without jeopardizing others. This was the motive behind the Safe Ride Solutions, a program started by a San Diego police detective and former Chargers running back, Lorenzo Neal. The purpose of the program is to ensure NFL players who decide to drink while out on the town can get home safely without driving. The program is endorsed by the NFL and makes use of law enforcement officers to drive players home.
If successful, such programs make sense and can help save lives. To stress its importance, consider these other findings from the Union-Tribune’s study: one out of every 165 NFL players is arrested for a DUI every year, while throughout the country, one out of every 91 males over 21 is arrested for a DUI. As long as these men continue to drink, they need a way to avoid driving at the same time.