The problem: NFL players who drive under the influence.
It happens with disturbing regularity ($2.4 million in fines and $2.9 million in lost salary in the past six years). It's obviously dangerous, even deadly (a player on Dallas' practice squad was killed last year in a car driven by a teammate who was charged with intoxication manslaughter). And it doesn't exactly burnish the league's image.
The solution: The NFL players union partners with a tech firm that makes a smartphone app that, with a few taps, summons a taxi or car service.
Doesn't quite seem like a solution. Seems like high-tech enabling.
Or, more precisely, it seems like Uber-enabling.
According to a recent New York Times story that mostly reads as if it were a press release jointly written by the union and the tech firm Uber Technologies, “because Uber relies on GPS, players will not need to know the precise address of their location to get a ride home.”
Swell. A player can be so drunk or drugged, so high, so stinking out of it, that he needn't bother to even know where he is. But Uber knows. Uber's app knows. It's all good.
“If we can move to a world where we are using the (mobile-device) phenomenon to increase the safety of our players, then the partnership with Uber is a no-brainer,” the Times quoted DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the players association.
Yeah, OK, it's a no-brainer that encouraging those under the influence not to drive makes them “safer” insofar as they're not behind the wheel, turning their Escalades into potential tanks of death. But all this app pap ignores the root of the problem: Players' attraction to alcohol and drug abuse. And it appears to passively approve of the behavior, if not wink at it. Hey, get loaded. After all, athletes will be athletes. Just don't drive.
The Times also quoted Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick: “Sometimes pro players' lives are unscheduled, and that's where Uber can be helpful.”