Mistakes are made every day by otherwise good people. We’re all aware of this, and Steve Weatherford is especially aware.
Weatherford is the teammate of David Diehl, the Giants offensive lineman who’s been charged with drunk driving after he drove his BMW into parked cars Sunday night in Queens. Diehl is now the fourth NFL player to be charged with one of the most senseless offenses known to legal textbooks everywhere. Justin Blackmon’s reputation is still recovering from the beating it took last week when he made the same unwise decision, while Vikings fullback Jerome Felton had a craving for McDonalds that ended in a booking. Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley was the other offender, and along with Aldon Smith and Blackmon, he’s one of the three first round picks over the past two years to drive while intoxicated.
None of this is acceptable, ever. And that’s why although it’s notable, the concern over the cancellation and re-formatting of the league’s “safe rides” program several years ago is confusing.
With the angst towards Blackmon still strong, over the weekend Mike Freeman of CBS Sports relayed the details behind the demise of a pretty remarkable program the league ran until a few years ago. It was aimed at curbing drunk driving, and players were given a number to call to receive a free–free–pick up at any hour.
What’s even more incredible is that if the player was dumb enough to drive his own car to his chosen place of inebriation, a driver would pick him up and then arrangements would be made to get his vehicle home too. Oh, and it was free. Did I say that already?
More details from Freeman:
It worked like this. A player would phone into a call center and be registered anonymously. He could arrange a car service to pick him (and friends) up and use that car service for the night. Or, incredibly, if the player wanted to use his own car, and got very drunk, the player could call the service, and an off-duty police officer would drive the player and his car home for him.
The service was organized by the league, and in 2009 it was taken over by the union amid concerns that teams were using it to spy on players while they were busy drowning their motor skills with alcohol. The service that was then used by the union was reportedly run by a private and lesser known company, and consequently players didn’t drunk dial it nearly as often.
However, that’s only part of the story.
NFLPA director Tim Christine told Brian McIntyre of NFL.com that the NFLPA service was replaced in 2009 because of complaints regarding its availability in all NFL cities, and the response time was poor. The new service now has a cost, but it’s a minimal one ($85) for players who are making millions, and the number to dial is on the back of every union card.
The earlier program was replaced because it wasn’t available in all NFL cities and the response time was too slow, Christine said.
“The feedback was less than satisfactory,” Christine said of the first service, adding that the new program receives some 65 calls per month.
The program is run by a private investigation firm and is available to players anywhere in the United States and Canada, Christine said.
So there’s still an easy, relatively cheap, and extremely convenient option to get home without hurting yourself or others that’s used frequently every month by NFL players.
Normal folk don’t have that kind of convenience, which is why while the existence of such a service is great, it’s also irrelevant. On any night in any major city in North America there are hundreds of plain people who are downtown for a good time, not a long time, and they manage to arrive home somehow through the various safe means of transportation (public transit, designated driver, cab).
Diehl and Blackmon are the most recent examples of high-profile athletes with far more to lose than the average man, and they failed to execute a simple, common sense task.