There’s been a lot of controversy over issues related to the NFL lately. But one issue that isn’t getting as much attention as it deserves is the serious connection between NFL games and DWI’s. For example, there was another driving while intoxicated arrest last week of a NFL player.
The arrest occurred at 6:30 in the evening after Aaron Neary had watched the Rams defeat the Cardinals. A Los Angeles area police department reported receiving numerous calls about a driver who had crashed into a bus stop sign, trash cans, and mailboxes. Police pulled over Neary. His Breathalyzer test showed that he had a blood alcohol level of .17% — more than twice the legal limit there and in Texas. Police arrested Neary for driving while intoxicated and causing property damage.
At least no one was hurt. But if he had hit another vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian, the outcome could have been far worse and even fatal. Often drunk drivers don’t realize they are driving in a school zone or at another pedestrian crossing. People who drive at this high level of intoxication put everyone at risk.
And the connection between college football games and DWIs could be its own blog post. You will remember TCU’s former star quarterback who got drunk in San Antonio the night before the Alamo Bowl game a few years ago and got arrested for punching out a security officer, was drunk in Dallas last year when his vehicle crashed into a bar, and is once again in the news for domestic violence.
On August 27th, two brothers got kicked out of the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals for drinking too much and being too rowdy. Outside in the parking lot, the men kept arguing and the other left to get his car. He ran over his brother who had jumped out in front of him. Police arrested the driver for DWI. Cops also found George’s six-year-old son sitting in the back seat of the car.
The discovery of the six-year-old led to Dylan George being arrested under Leandra’s Law. The “Child Passenger Protection Act” was enacted in 2009 and named for an 11-year-old named Leandra Rosada who was killed in an auto accident. The law states that the court must order all drivers convicted of misdemeanor and felony drunk driving charges to install and maintain ignition interlock devices on their vehicles for a minimum of six months at their own expense. The law must be enforced whenever drivers have a child under the age of 16 years in the car while they are driving under the influence.
On March 23th, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennet was indicted for an incident that occurred at the Super Bowl last year. He was in Houston at NRG Stadium as a spectator to watch his brother play for the New England Patriots.
After the game, Bennett pushed his way onto the field to join the players who were celebrating the win. The security personnel tasked with keeping fans off the field included a 66-year-old disabled woman who told Bennet he would have to use another access point to get to the field. Bennet chose to push through, that they must know who he was, and that he was going to the field whether they liked it or not.
Bennett pushed two women including the disabled woman who hurt her shoulder after getting pushed against the back of her wheelchair. The charges finally made against Bennett included injury to the elderly which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The delay in the investigation resulted in no real investigation at all. Was Bennett intoxicated? It’s hard to say with so much time passing by. He was allowed to leave the stadium unchallenged by police. The case has not been resolved in court.
As another example, in early August linebacker Dylan Donahue pleaded guilty to DWI charges that occurred the previous year in Montana. Donahue struck an abandoned vehicle in Billings. He received a three-month suspended sentence and a small fine.
Earlier the same week, Donahue pleaded guilty to a DWI arrest in February for driving the wrong way into New York on the Lincoln Tunnel. This time, Donahue crashed into a jitney bus. He received no jail time for the incident.
Donahue says the last incident was a wake-up call and that he hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since. He also claims that he has talked with his fellow team members about the risks of driving while intoxicated.
While waiting for word from the NFL on what course of discipline he would receive, Donahue put his team in an even tighter spot than it already was. Experts predict he’ll be suspended from playing between two and four games. The team already had two suspended players at the time. CB Rashard Robinson had a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse and WR ArDarius Stewart had a two-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. Also awaiting word on possible suspensions was WR Robby Anderson for separate arrests during each of the last two off-seasons.
The fact that more car accidents and more DWIs happen after NFL events isn’t a new one. I’ve blogged about this serious problem before.
The relationship between NFL games and DWIs is growing stronger. But the connection specifically to the Super Bowl is also a frightening one. Not only do statistics show that car accidents increase after the Super Bowl, the largest surge occurs in the home state of the losing team. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, the number of accidents in the losing team’s state climbed by an average of 68% and 46% in all states without local teams playing. That’s a lot of crashes.
The gloomier side of the study says that the average number of fatalities following the Super Bowl was 24 people. The number of injuries also increases dramatically during and after the game.
You can’t really call them car accidents when someone is drunk but there’s no denying the statistics that point to an increase in accidents following NFL games. Many so-called experts say there’s no obvious reason for it. Others site several potential reasons including the following.
As in the case of the George brothers, some people go to the game for reasons other than watching the main event. For many, the festivities start early. Tailgating is as much a tradition as the game itself, complete with coolers full of beer. Most stadiums allow tailgating in the parking lots until two or three hours before the game. They allow beer in the parking lot, but fans aren’t allowed to bring their own drinks into the stadium. Once inside, they have to buy their drinks and, usually, pay a hefty price for it. Of course, most are beyond caring about the rules by the time they enter the game. It’s no surprise that many NFL fans admit to sneaking alcohol into the games.
Then, there’s the emotion behind the outcome of the game. Statistics show that fans of the losing team are more likely to be in post-game accidents. Die-hard fans take their losses seriously. Combined with the fatigue of attending a late game, they probably aren’t paying as much attention as they should. Their mind is still in the game, not on the road where it needs to be.
Then, there’s the long drive home. The bigger the game, the more likely fans are to travel long distances to the event. Many have to go back to work the following Monday morning, making an overnight stay impossible. It’s bad enough when disappointed and intoxicated fans have to make a long drive after a midday game. When it ends late at night, the problem gets a lot worse.
All of these factors make sense when considering the difference in accidents following football games. But it still leaves the question as to why the problem gets worse at some stadiums and with some teams. Some fans drink more than others (Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, etc.), and some players have more arrests (Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, and others. No, not the Cowboys, but the team has had a fatal DWI crash in the past. Although all of the arrests aren’t for DWI or related offenses, a large percentage of them are.
The connection between NFL games and DWIs is a serious problem that is once again growing. Alcohol and NFL games are the factors that players and fans have in common. But when you break down the statistics and look at other contributing factors, you can see some very distinct differences.
The number of football players who abuse alcohol or drugs pales in comparison to the number of fans that do. In addition to the packed stadiums, there are the thousands of fans sitting at home or in their local sports bar watching the game. It turns out that these fans are also more likely to binge drink during a game. Anyone who has to drive home after the game or who decides to make a ‘beer run’ during halftime is at a greater risk of being arrested or crashing their car. That means there’s a lot of fans getting DWIs and DUIs. But how often do you hear about their arrests?
Perhaps the biggest factor is the difference in the treatment NFL players receive after a DWI from their fans. Do we just recognize the issue when an NFL player gets in trouble because of their fame? These cases usually make the news, especially if you happen to receive your team’s newsletter or you keep up with websites. You always know when an NFL player gets in trouble – even if you never know how severe their punishment was or wasn’t.
When police arrested Dylan George, they prosecuted him for a DUI and enforced Leandra’s Law. When you look at the history of NFL arrest records, the level of legal action tends to get much lighter. In many cases, players ended up with suspended sentences, probation, or community service.
Often, the resolution isn’t provided following a DWI. It gives a new perspective about why some players have multiple DWI arrests and are still on the field. They are also still driving on the roads until they end up causing another person to get seriously injured or killed.
Unless an NFL player causes a serious accident and injures another person, driving under the influence doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars dim in comparison to the more than $2 million average salaries they receive. Should it be up to the NFL to impose the only punishment for their crimes?
It really isn’t about whether the punishment for NFL players is fair. It’s about letting people with a drinking problem back on the road. The situation needs to be resolved before it results in a fatality.
That doesn’t mean that the growing number of NFL fans having DWIs and DUIs and car accidents after the game don’t need addressing too. When they cause car and truck accidents, they are liable for the other person’s injuries and property damage. But who is liable for allowing this situation to occur in the first place?
Before we can get any answers, we need to know which contributing factors are causing the biggest problem. Is it the stadiums’ tailgating practices? Do they need stricter enforcement to cut down on smuggling alcohol into the games or over serving patrons? Are there too many beer commercials on TV? Now that alcohol has become such a significant part of NFL games, how do we change that?
If you have been injured by a driver who is DWI or DUI, contact attorney Berenson Injury Law. We provide aggressive legal representation to the victims of car and truck crashes.