It’s been established that the NFL wants to increase the DUI penalties for players who drive drunk, and that the NFLPA has resisted. It’s also been established that non-players are held to a higher standard than players for violating the league’s policies.
It’s further established that the severity of the outcome of drunk driving influences the discipline. For players, a DUI without injury to a bystander or passenger results in a two-game fine for a first offense. When there’s a death, the precedent set in the Donté Stallworth case is a one-year suspension.
So why not also create different punishments based on the level of intoxication, regardless of the outcome? Currently, the league draws no distinction between a 0.08 percent reading (the legal limit) and concentrations far higher.
It’s a simple fix, if the NFL can get the NFLPA to agree to it. For a DUI based on a BAC reading in the range of, say, 0.08 percent to 0.16 percent, the penalty would remain two game checks. For a DUI based on a percentage in the range of 0.08 to 0.16, a two-game suspension would apply. For 0.24 percent or higher, it would be a four-game suspension.
Arguably, all three levels should be higher than that. (Arguably, any DUI should result in at least a one-year suspension because every DUI could claim the life of an innocent person.)
With the league constantly looking for ways to improve, this is an obvious area where the NFL can acknowledge that drunk driving isn’t a pass-fail proposition, and that there are degrees above 0.08 percent that require far stiffer punishment.
And since the league isn’t bound by a labor deal with Broncos executives Matt Russell (who blew a 0.246) and Tom Heckert (whose 0.162 came nearly seven hours after the arrest), these two cases provide the NFL with the perfect opportunity to send a message that there’s a huge difference between driving drunk and driving hammered.