The Dallas Cowboys are reeling from the effects of a horrific drunk driving crash which has taken the life of one player and ripped the other from the team.
Josh Brent and Jerry Brown Jr. were longtime friends, having played together at University of Illinois before making it into the NFL and ultimately winding up as teammates once again on the Cowboys. They were playing together when Brent plead guilty to DUI in 2009. This led to his suspension from Illinois and apparently, his initiation into the NFL.
Fast-forward to Friday night ahead of Sunday’s game in Cincinnati. Josh and Jerry were preparing by going out on the town. Once the bars closed, they sped off with Josh at the wheel, impaired and Jerry, a doomed passenger of a drunk driver. Josh hit a curb with his Mercedes. It flipped over, slid 300 yards down the road, and caught on fire. Though impaired, Josh was coherent enough to realize he had to get himself and Jerry out of the car.
As police arrived on the scene, Josh was dragging his friend from the burning vehicle in an attempt to save his life. Jerry Brown Jr. was pronounced dead after being transported to the hospital. Josh Brent has been arrested and charged with Intoxicated Manslaughter.
Josh has killed his friend and his career. He tore apart two families and his team.
Although dozens of people were killed by drunk driving yesterday, this case throws a huge spotlight at drunk driving within the NFL. I’m doing that right now, but let’s be clear about something. The NFL is a microcosm of American society and while it may seem like a different world altogether, there is one important way that the NFL is just like everybody else. As a culture, The NFL faces the same societal issues we all do, including drunk driving. The glare of the spotlight shows that drunk driving continues to be an issue for the NFL for THE SAME REASON that it continues to be an issue for us all.
Jerry and Josh were friends and teammates. They had a tendency to overlook each others’ weaknesses and flaws. There is a correlation between these two men and millions of groups of friends and coworkers across the country. When Josh would drink, Jerry would look the other way; perhaps not physically, but mentally. Josh would be ready to leave, grabs his keys, and Jerry would just say, “See ya,” or like Friday night, get in the car with him.
These people are just like you and me and everyone we know. We ignore our own behaviors and ignore or even support the behaviors of our friends, family, and coworkers. Drunk driving is a huge issue for the NFL just like it is a huge issue for the rest of us. What happened last night is continuously happening the same way everywhere around us. Our culture permits drunk driving even if our laws do not. The only real solution is for each of us to adopt drunk driving as a behavior we will not stand for. It isn’t enough to say, “I won’t do it”. We have to take a stand against those around us doing it too. We need to watch ourselves AND each other. We need to prevent instead of ignore.