National Columnist

Goodell needs to deliver message before drunk NFL players kill ... again


Kenny Britt, Justin Blackmon and Marshawn Lynch are facing charges related to drunk driving. (AP)  
Kenny Britt, Justin Blackmon and Marshawn Lynch are facing charges related to drunk driving. (AP)  

QUEENS, N.Y. -- After watching a soccer game at a bar in Astoria, New York Giants lineman David Diehl drove off in his BMW and crashed into several parked cars. Police say he had a blood-alcohol content of .182 ...

What is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell waiting for, anyway? Maybe he needs someone else to die. Oh, did I follow the word "someone" with the word "else"? Sure I did. In 2009, Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth killed a man with his liquor and his car. Rams defensive end Leonard Little killed a woman with his liquor and his car in 1998.

This year, 14 NFL players have been arrested on DUI-related charges.

Fourteen. Since January.

Not one of those 14 players killed someone, which is a damn miracle. Not one has been suspended by Goodell, either -- which is a damn disgrace. What's he waiting on? Even players are sick of it, whether it's veteran running back Derrick Ward going on a Twitter rampage about the DUI arrests, or it's Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora offering a single devastating tweet on the subject. Umenyiora recently left the country for a week and noted upon his return that "half the NFL has been arrested. What happened???"

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It's a great question. I have another one:

Where's Goodell?

MOBILE, Ala. -- Lions defensive lineman Nick Fairley was arrested after his Escalade drove past a state trooper at 100 mph on Interstate 10. Police found an open container of alcohol inside the car ...

Enough's enough. I know what the collective bargaining agreement says, and I know what NFL players say about Goodell. The CBA shoehorns a DUI offense into its section on substance abuse, and Goodell can't suspend first-time offenders. Bigger picture, players say Goodell has gone too far with his discipline. Hell, even I've said that -- noting that there's something fundamentally unfair about a system that has the same man act as prosecutor, judge, jury and appellate court.

But there's something much more unfair, much worse, about a system that allows a rich, drunk football player to drive his car without fear of having to miss an NFL game, even if he's caught by police. Effective discipline comes down to the same thing: Hit the offender where it hurts. A fine of $50,000? That's what Goodell gave Braylon Edwards for his DUI arrest in 2010. That was 1.4 percent of Edwards' $3.5 million salary.

That doesn't hurt. That's a joke.

And this isn't a laughing matter. Drunk drivers kill people, and by "people" I mean people like you and me. Every day, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 28 people are killed by a drunk driver in this country. Two years ago, 17 million people admitted to driving drunk. If those people formed their own state, it would be the fifth-biggest state in America.

NFL players are building their own city -- Deweyburg -- right now. Fourteen arrests this year? Five in July alone? That's not just a problem, that's an epidemic. But Goodell remains quiet. Maybe he's resting his muscles after flexing them all over the New Orleans Saints. Maybe he's on vacation. Maybe he's feeling hamstrung by the CBA, which says Goodell can't suspend a first-time substance-abuse offender without aggravating circumstances.

To which I would counter:

Driving while drunk is an aggravating circumstance. It's murderous. It doesn't always lead to a death, and thank goodness for that, but whether it does or not is out of the driver's control.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was arrested after Highway Patrol officers saw his Ford Econoline van weaving on Interstate 880, narrowly missing two cars in adjacent lanes ...

Even NFL players are furious. You could feel the rage of Ward, during his Twitter rant, when he called a DUI arrest "absolutely ridiculous" and said offending players are "putting other innocent people in danger that don't deserve your stupidity."

The solution is so easy, too.

"Call a taxi!" Ward shrieked on Twitter. "At least [you] won't have to pay bail and then lawyer fees and then miss game checks."

Nice try, Derrick, but game checks only get taken away from suspended players. And a single DUI, apparently, doesn't warrant a game suspension. For that we can thank the players union.

But you know something? I would like to see the union try to fight a suspension for, say, Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was stopped in April for speeding and weaving on the Bay Bridge. His BAC was measured at 0.12, which is legally drunk yet half the BAC of Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon after he was stopped in June for driving 60 mph in a 35-mph zone. Well, he was stopped eventually. Police say it took Blackmon four blocks to pull over his Chevy Tahoe -- probably not because he was trying to evade them, but because he was too drunk to notice them.

Blackmon's BAC tested at 0.24 and then 0.26. What happens to the human body with a BAC in that range? According to the University of Oklahoma police department, a person with a 0.25 BAC would be at "increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit."

Where's Goodell? I'm asking him to turn a DUI conviction into an automatic suspension -- make it two games, not one -- whether the CBA allows it or not. Force union head DeMaurice Smith to appeal it. I want to see DeMaurice Smith justify defending a rich NFL player who put everyone in his vicinity at risk because he was too stupid to find another way home.

Or we could wait for the next headline. Fourteen arrests so far this year. It's a matter of time before it's 15. I wonder how that story will read.

YOUR TOWN -- A father of three was killed yesterday when he was run over by an NFL player's car. Police reported the smell of alcohol ...

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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