The NFLPA announced Wednesday that it will launch an app for "safe, discreet and professional transportation" to help cut down on the number of DUI offenders in the league.
According to media reports including the New York Times and ESPN, the technology will be made available to NFL players next week and will allow them to summon a ride within minutes. The rides are currently available in nearly 20 NFL cities as well as the Pro Bowl city of Honolulu. Houston and Miami have been unable to accept the technology because it conflicts with existing taxi contracts. The app, created by tech firm Uber, is already used by the San Francisco Giants and by Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love.
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said the app helps meet a "public health and safety and responsibility challenge."
"Certainly the issue of player safety and community safety continues to lead us to find new and better ways to keep our players safe and members of the community safe. We've brought state-of-the-art technology and marketing in this effort to keep the players and the community safe...In our world, we know discipline plays a part in changing behavior, but we really wanted to start this to look at doing a better job by treating it as a public health and safety and responsibility challenge. We believe this partnership with Uber meets that."
He added that the ultimate goal of the NFLPA is to change behavior regarding DUIs:
"The goal for us is to change behavior. Currently in the United States we have increased enforcement and penalties, there's been increased focus [on drunk driving]....There already are dramatic penalties far above what the commissioner can impose in the NFL."
Players will be offered $200 in credit as an "inducement" for using the app, according to Ken Belson of the New York Times. The technology is seen as a complement to an existing service provided by the league that allows players to make a phone call to request a ride. However, the onus is on the players to give their exact location when placing the phone call. The new Uber app uses GPS from the phone to provide the exact coordinates of the player.
Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick said the app addresses the fact that "pro players’ lives are unscheduled."
“We’re working to educate city governments that this reduces drunk driving and gets people out of their cars. Sometimes, pro players’ lives are unscheduled, and that’s where Uber can be helpful.”
According to the Times, NFL players have paid nearly $2.4 million in fines since 2006 and lost almost $2.9 million in salary from cases involving impaired driving.
Despite the seemingly convenient technology offered by Uber, it remains to be seen how many players will sign up for it. As Belson points out, a similar technology was introduced to players several years ago but it was dismantled out of a fear by players that it "would keep tabs on their whereabouts." BURKE: Broncos, 49ers are Super Bowl favorites, according to sportsbook Bovada