June 5, 2014 By Matthew Wallin

Recently, it was reported that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon could be suspended for the entire 2014 NFL season after testing positive for marijuana. Gordon, who led the league in receiving yards last season, is reportedly being shopped for trade by the Browns because of his most recent positive drug test. Gordon was suspended for two games during the 2013 season for his first positive marijuana test.1

Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns 2012

The NFL’s suspensions for marijuana are especially harsh considering the league’s lack of discipline for players arrested for DUI. Despite reaching an agreement in 2012 with car service Uber to provide rides for its players, 15 players have been arrested for DUI since 2013.2 The NFL does not have an established penalty for DUI in place and Commissioner Roger Goodell only suspends players on a case-by-case basis. On average, the punishment for a first-time DUI arrest is a fine of up to $50,000.3

The stark contrast in punishments for smoking marijuana and driving under the influence is something that needs to be addressed by the NFL. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has the potential to injure or even kill other people. Smoking marijuana may be against league policy, but the potential harm can be seen as less serious than drinking and driving.

Even in California, where crimes involving alcohol and drugs are taken very seriously, certain aspects of marijuana laws have been changed to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

The NFL’s Proposed DUI Penalty

In the 2013 offseason alone, 31 NFL players from 19 different teams were arrested.4 Of those arrests, 10 were for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated.5

The NFL has stated multiple times that it wants to toughen its punishment for DUI crimes to include suspensions.6 However, the league cannot make any new changes to player policy due to the current collective bargaining agreement it has with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). The NFL and the NFLPA are reportedly close to a new agreement for the penalty for a first-time DUI arrest to consist of a one-game suspension and a fine of up to $50,000.7

Wallin & Klarich’s Proposed NFL DUI Penalty

Though penalties vary by state, a conviction for DUI can result in serious penalties. In the state of California, a first-time DUI conviction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and a $2,000 fine. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended for six month under Penal Code Section 23152(a)(b).

The NFL needs to take DUI crimes as seriously as the law. Currently, the most serious penalty an NFL player can face is a four-game suspension for using performance enhancing dugs.8A first-time DUI arrest should result in a similar four-game suspension without pay to show that the NFL is serious about its stance on alcohol-related offenses.

It would send a strong message to its players and fans, and potentially save lives. The NFL should also consider revising its policies to ban alcohol from locker rooms and road trips.

Do you think the NFL should institute harsher penalties for players arrested for DUI? Do you feel the NFL has a problem with players being arrested for DUI? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Information retrieved from:

1. Brown’s Josh Gordon faces potential suspension, May 9, 2014, http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000348872/article/browns-josh-gordon-faces-potential-suspension

2. NFL Arrests Database, http://www.utsandiego.com/nfl/arrests-database/?appSession=821104866866959&RecordID=&PageID=2&PrevPageID=&cpipage=5&CPISortType=&CPIorderBy=

3. Report: NFL wants stronger punishment for player DUIs, to hinge on HGH testing?, June 12, 2012, http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/19337921/report-nfl-wants-stronger-punishment-for-player-duis-to-hinge-on-hgh-testing

4. NFL 2013: Off-season nets over 30 arrests; charges range from DUI to murder, September 5, 2013, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nfl-2013-off-season-nets-over-30-arrests-charges-range-from-dui-to-murder/

5. Id.

6. Report: New NFL drug policy would suspend first-time DUI offenders, May 25, 2014, http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24572337/report-new-nfl-drug-policy-would-suspend-1st-time-dui-offenders

7. Id.

8. NFL should be ashamed of its weak DUI policy, December 10, 2012, http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2012/12/10/jarrett-bell-nfl-needs-a-tougher-drunk-driving-policy-dallas-cowboys-josh-brent-jerry-brown/1760049/

Image retrieved from:

Author: Erik Drost; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Josh_Gordon_2012.jpg

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