Tulsa, OK- The NFL has a drinking problem, since pro-football players get arrested for drunken driving more frequently than pro athletes in other leagues and the NFL has been repeatedly criticized for their lenient sanctions against player-offenders. But now it seems that the NFL is identifying the problem and is discussing proposals that make penalties tougher on players who are convicted of drunk driving.
The league and the NFL Players Association are in the midst of discussions and have not finalized any new penalties, but they are well on the way, according to a report from Fox News Sports.
A union source told Fox that “players have been open to discussions and already discussed increasing discipline on DUIs.”
The NFL wants players, who have DUI convictions to face mandatory suspensions, but the length of those suspensions and financial penalties won’t be hashed out until the league and the NFLPA agree on a human growth hormone testing program.
Mandatory suspensions and financial penalties alone may not be enough to curtail the problem. According to U-T San Diego, there have been 10 NFL players arrested for intoxicated driving this year alone. In 2012, 17 players were charged with intoxicated driving including the high profile arrest of the Cowboys’ Josh Brent who killed one of his teammates in a drunken driving accident last December.
Harsher discipline may be in order, but combating the intoxicated driving arrests in the NFL will take more effort. The league already offers a driving service for players who are too drunk to drive, but many players fail to utilize the service. The union source told Fox “other proactive measures beyond discipline need to be taken.”
Those measures, the source said, should include demographic research on the players who have been arrested to determine if there are other issues which the league can address. The source also said that a better communication system with players which would encourage them arrange alternative transportation if they plan on drinking is needed.
In a phone interview with Allan Birch, who is charge of the NFL’s drug testing programs told Fox, that they league needs to be more proactive in deterring drunk driving incidents. He says the league has made strides in “some areas, but not so far on the deterrent end.”
“From our end, we look at three or four different areas where we provide education, awareness and resources. We also look at deterrents,” Birch said. “We need all to be as effective as they can to reduce the incidents as much as possible.”
Drunk driving isn’t just a problem for pro football players, over the past year several players for college teams have also been arrested for intoxicated driving. Recently, Londell Taylor, a reserve player for the Oklahoma Sooners, was arrested for DUI in Tulsa.
The criminal penalties and sanctions on behalf of the NFL have done little to deter players. Most people, NFL players included, don’t face jail time after their first DUI/DWI conviction, and for a player who makes millions of dollars the total financial costs of a DUI are negligible.