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Athletes in trouble: the continuing debate about pro sports and DUI

Now that football season is finally here, a lot of Waukesha residents never miss an opportunity to watch the Packers play. Wisconsin residents arguably have more loyalty and devotion to the Packers than other states have for their respective home teams.

Perhaps this is one reason why the Packers players largely tend to keep out of trouble in their personal lives, at least compared other athletes in the NFL. Ironically, one of the most common criminal charges faced by professional football players (as well as basketball, baseball and hockey players) also seems to be the easiest to avoid: DUI.

A sports columnist addressed this issue in a recent opinion piece. He noted that as of mid September, 15 NFL players had been charged with DUI and other alcohol-related driving offenses this year. Between all four of the major American team sports (mentioned above), a total of 22 athletes have been arrested on such charges in 2012.

Statistically speaking, the DUI rate is lower among this demographic than among the general U.S. population (22 arrests out of approximately 3,600 players). But the author argues that drunk driving is particularly inexcusable for famous athletes for two reasons: their high-profile status and the fact that they have an abundance of alternative transportation options that the average person does not.

Regarding his second point, it is true that the majority of pro athletes could afford to hire a sober ride home. Beyond calling a cab, many could easily cover the cost of a limousine and driver. Football players have yet another resource provided by the NFL; a program called "Safe Rides."

The author also touches on a point that has been repeated time and again by those critical of professional athletes: because of their fame and high-profile status, they have a responsibility to be positive role models.

There has been considerable debate over the years about this assertion. On the one hand, it's great when professional athletes are also responsible and inspiring people. After all, many of their biggest fans are still young and impressionable.

On the other hand, athletes are human just like the rest of us. As such, they make mistakes. Do they deserve greater scorn simply because their mistakes are more public? What do readers think?

Source: AOL Sporting News, "Michael Turner's DUI arrest part of disturbing trend among professional athletes," David Steele, Sept. 18, 2012

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