The NFL Has a Drinking and Driving Problem

The NFL has many, many problems (concussions, players getting paid for knocking other players out of games, and gun-ownership rates all come to mind), but the easiest to fix is its drinking and driving issue. On the heels of Jerry Brown’s death and Josh Brent’s arrest, the senselessness of the act we’ve almost all been guilty of has come front and center.

ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha:

The drinking problem is beyond comprehension especially because pro athletes have more than enough means to avoid getting behind the wheel with an illegal blood-alcohol content. They can pay for cabs or private drivers, and the league offers free rides in major cities for players who have had one too many. For Brent to allegedly be operating a car with any booze in his system after pleading guilty to drunken driving in June 2009 defies all logic. At the very least, repeat offenders should face long-term suspensions.

So here’s to hoping the NFL office — and the NFL Players Association, for that matter — is in full-scale crisis mode today. Don’t give us moments of silence, somber press releases or predictable words about how sad a week this has been. Give us something that is tangible, something that can help these players avoid future disasters.

Give us the one thing that has been missing in the first place: a serious plan of action.

USA Today‘s Brent Schrotenboer:

Brown’s death marked the third time since 1998 that an NFL player killed another person because of suspected DUI. Brent’s arrest also marked the 18th time this year that an NFL player has been arrested on suspicion of DUI – up from seven in 2011 and not far behind the worst NFL DUI years in recent history: 20 in 2006 and 19 in 2009. On average, NFL players are arrested for DUI about 13-14 times a year.

Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel:

If there is one NFL trend that may be exposing itself here is that players, perhaps in higher numbers than expected, are partying hard on Friday night with a game normally less than 48 hours later.

Young people are going to go out. That’s unlikely to ever change, but maybe teams, or the league overall, can focus on providing safe rides or significant reminders on that night of the week. Who knows? Let there be more discussion on potential solutions.


  • MCC

    They really don’t.

    “Arrests are down 40% from the peak since the 2006 peak and over the last decade – including the bad years – NFL players are about a quarter as likely to commit a crime as the average male aged 22-34 (2.9% of players compared to 10.8% of men).

  • BradfordPearson

    That’s the general crime rate; I’m just talking about DUIs, which are nearing an all-time high.

  • Craigt42

    They really do. Compare the violent crime rate for NFL players and compare it to the same stats for any other group in the same income bracket. You would think every game was played in Beirut or Detroit. . Plus as Bradford pointed out, the article was about DUI offenses, not overall crime.

  • Glenn

    Private citizens opting to own guns for hunting or personal protection is not a “problem.”

  • MCC

    But is it at an all time high compared to their peer group? I’ve got a rough DUI arrest rate of 9% (18 arrests by 1952 players – 53 man active roster plus the 8 man practice squad). The feds say there were 1.4 million DUI arrests in 2010 versus a population of 308 million for a 4.5% national occurance, and they note that men, especially young men, are much more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol. I think it could safely be said that the DUI rate for men under 35 is certainly north of 4.5%. Maybe not approaching 9%, but certainly above the national average. So I guess if I could amend my prior comment, I’d argue that the NFL does not have much more of a DUI problem than men aged 21-35 do.

    To the point of fixing the issue, I’m not sure there is much else the NFL or the NFLPA can do regarding DUIs, save forcing every player to put a interlock on their cars or something similarly drastic. It’s been brought up by numerous outlets that the PA has a hotline available 24/7 that any player can call to get a free, sober ride home, wherever they may be, and it doesn’t get reported back to the team that you got a ride home from the scrip club at 4am the Friday before a game. It’s not being utilized for the same reason the non-football playing public drives buzzed or drunk. They don’t think they’ll get pulled over. Rodney Harrison had some great words on it last night on NBC.

  • gimmethewooby

    America has a drinking and driving problem – it just gets magnified with incidents such as this one.

  • Tim Rogers

    If 14 players per year are arrested for DUI, that’s .8 percent of the NFL population (1,749 players). Nationally, .6 percent of the over-21 population has been arrested for DUI. If you were to look at the percentage in the gen population that are the same age as NFL players (mostly mid-20s), I’m sure that number would be higher. So the NFL number is actually low. Reference:

    • Randy McCluer

      Tim, that’s .8% per year for the NFL versus .6% of the gen-pop all-time, so not really apples to apples. That link is down right now, but I’m seeing 1.4M DUI arrests in the US in 2010 vs estimates of 200M licensed drivers for a .07% rate, but a LOT of the DUIs are apparently repeat offenders. I’m guessing if we adjust the %age down, but then adjust up for the 20-something male bracket, I’m guessing we end up right around the same .8% number.

  • Tim Rogers

    That’s a .9 percent arrest rate, not 9 percent.

  • Tim Rogers

    And your DUI math is wrong, too. 1.4 million divided by 308 million is .45 percent.

  • MCC

    Decimal points, how do they work. Thanks Tim.

  • mynameisbill

    Let’s just do away with death all together. I mean, isn’t “death” the big pink elephant in the room that nobody is wanting to see? We can do this guys. If not now, when?

  • Kk.

    How about comparing the average DUI’s from the general populations salary compared to the average NFL’er DUI’s salary? Not that being poor is a reason to drive drunk, but EVERY pro footballer can afford the $$ for a ride + their bosses offer free rides – not to mention they are the elite of the elite in their field and public figures. Time for zero tolerance on behavior that endangers the public for the NFL. Drinking, drugs, beating your friends, family or strangers, illegal gun use, etc. for the money they make being athletes the NFL should be able to ban them from drinking during the season entirely.