Time for Clarity on the NFL’s DUI Policy

By Drew Magary
|  Friday, Sep 24, 2010  |  Updated 12:30 PM CDT
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Time for Clarity on the NFL’s DUI Policy

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Jets wideout Braylon Edwards was tagged with a DUI this week, but will likely play against Miami in the Jets’ Sunday Night game, a decision the Jets have already been hammered for. By now you know that the Jets, just last week, told their players there was a free car service available to them should they decide to drink out on the town during nights off, a service I very much wish NBC provided for me.

Edwards has had previous run-ins with the law, including being accused of assault by a man in Cleveland (he pleaded no contest), and in 2008 he was stopped going 120 mph in a 65 mph zone. But this is his first arrest for DUI, and this is where the NFL’s policy on such matters gets a little hazy. Two of Edwards’ opponents on Sunday night, Will Allen and Ronnie Brown of Miami, were tagged with DUI. Neither was suspended by the NFL for their actions.

The Jets have said they cannot suspend Edwards immediately due to NFLPA bylaws, but those bylaws stipulate only that Edwards cannot be suspended without pay. If the Jets were to sit Edwards for the entire game as a matter of principle, they are more than free to do so.

The official NFL policy on DUI is that first time offenders can be fined up to $50,000, with suspensions coming only upon a second offense. This is because that first arrest is subject to the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and not its personal conduct policy. That’s why Brown and Allen weren’t suspended by the NFL. However, Edwards’ prior assault charge may allow him to be subject to the personal conduct policy, in which case Roger Goodell can suspend him as he sees fit. If Edwards had done nothing prior to this DUI, then the league wouldn’t be able to suspend him.

This is foolish, because no two DUI arrests are alike. Some players are drunker than others. Some may crash their cars. Some may have additional moving violations while driving drunk. Some may hijack an ice cream truck and drive it 100mph into a school zone. To have a blanket policy that excuses the first DUI is impractical.

That first DUI needs to be immediately subject to the personal conduct policy, so that a more nuanced hand can administer the punishment, instead of it always being a blanket uniform fine. Having the first DUI come under substance abuse, but the second come under personal conduct, makes no logical sense.

The NFLPA won’t like this, but it needs to be done. NFL players get tagged for DUI all the time, and they always will. 73 players in the NFL were busted for it in 2008 alone. DUI and NFL players go together like Braylon Edwards and bad facial hair. The $50,000 fine is essentially a free pass to get nailed once.

This needs to be done simply for the sake of clarity. Right now, no one precisely knows if and when Edwards should be suspended, leaving the Jets to make a decision about his status Sunday Night that they probably wish someone else would make for them. This policy needs to be clearer for their sake, and for the sake of whatever poor old lady is in the passing lane next to Braylon Edwards’ car.

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