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."
Uh-huh. Good ol' helpful Uber.
Yes, NFL players, because their lives are "unscheduled," just don't know when or where they might find themselves unfit to drive. It can happen anywhere, anytime. But no worries. It's taxi app to the rescue.
The Times story, insidious in its matter-of-fact tone and banal headline, "For NFL Players, an App to Combat Impaired Driving," contains no quote from the union chief or the Uber guy stating that players are adults who should know how to call for a cab without the assistance of an app or that these grown men should take responsibility for their behavior, maybe find more productive ways to spend their free time, perhaps drastically reduce their consumption of alcohol or, radically, consider sobriety.
With this rallying around mobile-device technology to better assist NFL players in more smoothly negotiating the potential consequences of some of their less wholesome activities in mind, here is a list of other possible apps we'll be reading about:
The NRA app would be for players whose interpretation of the Second Amendment translates into their right to carry, brandish or discharge a loaded gun in a public venue such as, say, a strip club. When trouble ensues, just tap the app and a gun lobby attorney or a local militiaman, whoever is closer, will come to the player's aid.