It has been only a week, though it seems much longer that, since Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed the mother of his child and then himself. This Saturday, another tragedy unfolded for a different NFL team, under very different circumstances.
Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent allegedly got drunk, allegedly drove his car while drunk, crashed it, and killed practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown.
It’s not the first time an NFL player has claimed a life while driving a car; it’s the first we can recall involving a victim who also was an NFL player.
In the case of Brent and Brown, they were teammates both at Illinois and in Dallas. Reportedly, they currently were roommates.
While the Cowboys and the rest of the NFL mourn the passing of Brown, Brent is entitled to the presumption of innocence. If/when Brent pleads guilty or is convicted, he deserves to face the consequences.
One of the major objectives of the justice system is deterrence. Even now, after three decades of increased sensitivity to the dangers of drunk driving and heightened punishment for those who do it, people still consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel of large steel machines that can cause significant damage, mayhem, and death.
When it comes to NFL players. the rest of us will continue to be confounded by their failure to take advantage of team- and/or union-provided car services that will get them home without danger to themselves or, more importantly, to anyone else.
Since it will be impossible and unrealistic to convert 1,700 young athletes into teetotalers, the league and the NFLPA should acknowledge the reality of the situation and do more to educate players on the importance of understanding when they need to press the button on their phones that will bring them a sober driver, no questions asked.
Whatever the NFL is currently doing, it’s not working. It’s time for the league office, the teams, and the players’ union to work together for a permanent, reliable, and effective solution.