NFLPA, Uber team up to provide drunk football players with rides home

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, September 5, 2013

The National Football League Players’ Association is partnering up with Uber Technologies to ensure that all professional football players have access to a sober ride should they find themselves partying a bit too much after a football game.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith announced the creation of the new smartphone app in a teleconference Wednesday afternoon, noting how important it is to have a program that allows players who need a ride home after a night of drinking to commute safely. There has been an increase in the number of DUIs received by NFL players in recent years, and last December, Dallas Cowboys player Jerry Brown died after a car driven by his then-teammate, Josh Brent, struck a curb and flipped over. Brent was indicted with one count of intoxicated manslaughter for the incident.

Smith added that the players association partnered with Uber because of the company’s innovation and other easy-to-use apps.

“The goal for us is to change behavior,” Smith said on the teleconference, according to CBS Sports. “You have increased enforcement, increased penalties.”

“When you start off looking at this, there are dramatic penalties, above what the commissioner can impose on the National Football League. People can be thrown in jail. Anytime you look at changing behavior on a large scale, the only way to change behavior is to use a myriad of vehicles to change that behavior. The partnership with Uber provides players with that quick access to great transportation, but the goal was to look at all the ways we can act to change behavior,” he continued.

Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick added that Uber already has the technology in place in 17 of the 31 NFL cities, noting that the reason it’s not currently available in others is because of various state regulations and lobbying against the program.

“Uber prides itself on finding creative solutions to difficult challenges and being able to use our platform to create a safer environment for players and their communities was a natural fit,” Kalanick said in a statement, according toCBS Sports. “Many professional athletes love and have used Uber organically so this was a great opportunity to help raise awareness about our technology while helping the NFLPA tackle a serious issue.”

The NFL also found itself on the receiving end of some controversy in Denver this week, where the recreational use of marijuana became legal earlier this year. The Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that advocates for reduced penalties for marijuana use, sponsored a billboard near Sports Authority Field at Mile High – the home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos – urging the league to up its penalties on players who are arrested for DUIs.

Denver will host the reigning Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in the opening game of the 2013 NFL Season Thursday night.

“For years, the NFL has been punishing players for using marijuana despite the fact that it is far less harmful than alcohol, a substance widely embraced by the league,” Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Washington Times. “The league would never punish a player simply for having a couple beers, so why does it penalize them for using a substance that is less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to contribute to violence.”

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