The National Football League has seen its fair share of controversy over the last several years.
There has been cases of domestic violence, Deflategate, drug-related suspensions and investigations and a laundry list of other issues. Through all of this, one major conduct violation has flown under the radar: Driving under the influence.
Some of those accused of a DUI are released from their teams within days of the incident. This happened most recently to now-former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was arrested on Sept. 23, in Tampa for speeding and erratic driving. Seferian-Jenkins was released by the Buccaneers the same day, but was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets less than a week later.
Prior to the 2014 NFL season, a new drug policy cracked down on the issue of DUIs. The policy deems discipline for a first DUI arrest to be a two-game suspension, while a second violation will result in an eight-game ban. Any subsequent incidents can result in even longer suspensions. This was in response to the eight DUI arrests of NFL players between January and August 2014.
Since the beginning of 2014, ta total of 23 NFL players have been arrested for DUI, according to USA Today. Of those cases, there have been eight instances in which the teams released the player as a result. Some of the time, the team takes the initiative before the league does anything, while in others the team sits back while the NFL levies penalty after penalty.
Look at the example of Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon was the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Oklahoma State and looked to have a promising future. This was the case until he ran into several off-the-field issues, including a DUI in 2012 and multiple substance abuse violations. Blackmon is still on the Jaguars roster, however he hasn’t played a snap in the NFL since 2013.
Now fast-forward to Dec. 19, 2015, when Blackmon was arrested for a second DUI. As Blackmon continues to serve his indefinite suspension after several failed attempts at reinstatement, the Jaguars continue to employ him.
Comparatively, former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was released in 2015 after a third DUI arrest. Smith’s history of off-the-field issues resulted in his release, and an eventual one-year suspension handed down by the league last November.
However, in some cases, players do not receive their suspensions until much later on. Buffalo Bills running back Jonathan Williams was arrested for a DUI this past offseason, but he will not face a suspension until the 2017 season. This is not the first instance of the NFL delaying a ruling.
Former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith was arrested for DUI back in June 2014, but he did not serve a suspension until the following September. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff wasn’t suspended until more than two years after his DUI arrest in January 2013.
The NFL had the right mindset when it amended its drug policy, but commissioner Roger Goodell’s lack of immediate action is not doing anything to help uphold the law of the land or the game’s integrity. Action must be taken against those that violate The Shield’s expected conduct.
Matt Ambrose is a journalism major from Exeter, N.H. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mambrose97.