The NFL has faced growing scrutiny over the past few seasons over the large number of players arrested for alcohol-related driving incidents. To combat the issue, the NFL Players Association has announced a partnership with the car service startup Uber, a program the league hopes will cut down on DUI arrests among its players.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told reporters in a teleconference Wednesday that the deal is the latest in an attempt at the league's larger goal to curb drinking and driving.
Anytime you look at changing behavior on a large scale, the only way to change behavior is to use a myriad of vehicles to change that behavior. The partnership with Uber provides players with that quick access to great transportation, but the goal was to look at all the ways we can act to change behavior.
Uber connects clients to a system of on-call drivers through a mobile app compatible with most smart phones, providing riders with safe and reliable transportation at the touch of a button. Once a user requests a pickup, the app shows the driver's location and estimated time of arrival.
"Uber prides itself on finding creative solutions to difficult challenges and being able to use our platform to create a safer environment for players and their communities was a natural fit," said founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.
The NFL plans to pass out personalized keychain cards with prepaid ride credits to every active player in the league. Players will receive $200 in initial credits, according to the New York Times.
The service is currently available in 17 of the league's 31 cities (with the Jets and Giants sharing New York), though Kalanick said Uber plans to be active in 21 cities by June 1 of next year. Many large market cities remain off limits to the company, thanks in part to strong taxi unions hoping to limit competition.
The idea of providing safe transportation to players is not a new one. A phone-based car service is in place currently, and many teams provide their own private programs. But with DUI arrests still prevalent, the Players Association is hoping that the ease of the new smart phone app can be more successful than previous programs.
The league has battled a rash of recent DUI arrests, including the deadly accident last year involving Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent that killed his passenger and teammate, linebacker Jerry Brown.