SBD/September 5, 2013/NFL Season Preview

NFL Still Seeing Numerous Arrests Despite Goodell's Attempt To Clean Things Up

Hernandez' murder charges stood out among the many offseason NFL arrests
NFL players have been "arrested or charged with crimes at least 37 times" since Super Bowl XLVII, including "10 players accused of driving drunk and a murder indictment" for former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, according to a front-page piece by Brent Schrotenboer of USA TODAY. The NFL during Commissioner Roger Goodell's tenure "features an arrest rate of more than one per week -- an average that hasn't changed much" since taking over for Paul Tagliabue in '07. NFL players under Goodell "have been arrested or charged with crimes at least 395 times, including 107 drunken-driving arrests, 43 domestic abuse cases, 34 cases involving guns and 94 cases involving fighting or disorderly conduct." The league believes its efforts to limit criminal offenses "are working, with one big exception: drunken driving." NFL Senior VP/Labor Policy & Gov't Affairs Adolpho Birch said, "The current level of deterrence associated with a DUI is insufficient." Birch added that "instead of fines for first-time drunken drivers ... the NFL wants mandatory suspensions under the league's substance abuse policy." Drunken driving under Goodell has "accounted for about 27% of arrests despite a concerted effort" by the NFL, NFLPA, teams and players "to combat the problem with education and phone numbers for players to call for free rides." Goodell "acknowledged that the league's efforts to educate and prevent problems, while substantial, offer no guarantees." He said last month, "You're still dealing with young men, individuals who are bound to make mistakes. We all do in life. What they have to realize and what we try to teach them is that your mistakes are going to be magnified" (USA TODAY, 9/5).

SAFETY MEASURE: In Denver, Steve Raabe reports the NFLPA and S.F.-based Uber Technologies yesterday announced a new partnership "for pro football players to get rides around town." Players "can use Uber's smartphone application to connect with a limousine or town car company." Anyone "can already use the Uber service, but the partnership with the NFLPA will provide players with keychain cards loaded with ride credits" (DENVER POST, 9/5). NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said that the partnership with Uber will "raise awareness among players that, in many cities, they have a safe, sleek alternative" to driving drunk. Smith: "We know that discipline certainly plays a part in changing behavior. But we really wanted to start this look at trying to do a better job by treating this as a public health and public safety (issue). This partnership with Uber is something we believe meets that.” WIRED.com's Marcus Wohlsen noted while Uber is "available in slightly more than half the 31 cities with NFL teams, many of the league’s DUI incidents over the past year happened in places where Uber isn’t an option, at least not yet" (WIRED.com, 9/4). Uber plans to increase its availability from 17 NFL cities to 20 "by the first quarter of 2014." Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that the company is "trying to change local laws in Houston and Miami that block companies like Uber" (SFGATE.com, 9/4).

NOT ENOUGH: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes the NFLPA "can throw all the smartphone technology it wants at the issue of drunk driving, but it will never be enough." Players "always will want to show off their cars, even more so when they aren't thinking clearly." They will "say they are OK to drive home no matter how drunk they are," and they will "always be concerned that teams can track their use of the app, potentially getting them into trouble in whole new ways" (USA TODAY, 9/5).
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