Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Drunken driving is not about the NFL

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 2:58 PM EST, Tue December 11, 2012
A police officer arrests a driver who failed a sobriety test. LZ Granderson says football players have a low rate of DUIs.
A police officer arrests a driver who failed a sobriety test. LZ Granderson says football players have a low rate of DUIs.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: NFL slammed after player's arrest on intoxication manslaughter charge
  • But drunken driving is not an NFL issue, he says, since it happens in all walks of life
  • Granderson: General population, mostly young men, have much higher rate than NFL
  • We need to talk about the culture that promotes excessive drinking, he says

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

(CNN) -- Over the past few days we've heard a lot of criticism directed at the National Football League after the arrest of a Dallas Cowboy player on an intoxication manslaughter charge. And justifiably so: A 25-year-old father-to-be who was riding in the player's car is dead.

But we can't fall into the trap of making this conversation all about the NFL or even professional athletes. Doing that is a cop-out.

Legendary country singer Randy Travis was arrested this year on a driving while intoxicated charge.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

South Carolina state Rep. Ted Vick was arrested this year on a charge of drunken driving.

Florida's Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Joshua Postorino, a Georgia Tech assistant basketball coach, was "swerving all over the road" before being arrested last week on a driving under the influence charge.

We can try to make this conversation about NFL players -- but of the nearly 2,000 men who suit up per season, 14 DUI arrests are made, according to USA Today. That equates to a .7% percent rate. The rate for men in the general population ages 20 to 29, the age bracket of most NFL players, is twice that. Meanwhile, men 21 to 34 are responsible for 42% of all DUI deaths.

Read more: Dallas Cowboys players involved in fatal crash were 'like brothers'

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



This issue isn't about football players. The MetLife Stadium doesn't stop serving alcohol at the beginning of the third quarter because officials are afraid the players are going to try to drive home drunk.

If we want to use this tragedy in Dallas to talk about DUIs, then perhaps we need to be more focused on the men who watch the games, not play them. The stats suggest the average guy probably doesn't need to go the full six degrees of separation before finding a connection with another guy who got behind the wheel of a car when he shouldn't have.

Jerry Brown's family praying for Brent
Attorney: Cowboy 'not doing well'

When I look back at my 20s, I know I've been lucky more than once, and I thank God that his grace covered me when my pride put me -- and others -- in harm's way.

Too proud to say I've had too much to drink because men are supposed to be able to handle our liquor.

Too proud to say I need a ride home, because that would be asking for help -- and men don't like to do that.

Too proud to admit I might've been out of control, even though being out of control is the main side effect of excessive drinking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says men are much more likely than women to drink excessively and drive at high speeds. Men average about 12.5 binge drinking episodes a year; Women average 2.7.

And yet we want to make this entire conversation about sports, when this is no more a sports story than a rerun of "Sex and the City."

Last year Alan Hale, a state representative and bar owner from Montana, got on the House floor and advocated for a repeal of all DUI laws because they hurt small businesses and "they're destroying a way of life." FYI: There is no professional sports team in Montana.

Our culture promotes a casual attitude about intoxication -- from "The Hangover" to Jamie Foxx's Grammy-winning "Blame It" -- and then gets all pious when something bad happens because of alcohol.

If we want to have a grownup conversation about DUIs, that's where it should start: Otherwise we're just sucking up oxygen.

Does this mean the NFL should ignore drunken driving arrests of its players? Of course not.

But the CDC says adults got behind the wheel drunk an estimated 112 million times in 2010 -- nearly 300,000 times a day -- and that 81% of all drunken drivers are men. So whatever thoughts we may be harboring about athletes who drink and drive, it would be wise to extend those feelings far beyond the realm of sports.

Nearly 11,000 people are killed each year because of alcohol-impaired driving. But since 1998, there have only been three NFL players who have been suspected of having killed someone because of driving drunk.

You can do the rest of the math from there.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT