Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Drunken driving is not about the NFL

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
December 11, 2012 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
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
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT