CBS SPORTS – NFL linebacker Jerry Brown is not dead because he was an NFL linebacker. NFL lineman Josh Brent was not put in jail, charged with causing Brown’s death, because he’s an NFL lineman.
Their tragic story is not a story about the NFL. It’s a story about life.
Life happens. So does death. When drunk driving is involved, it happens far too often. But drunk driving isn’t an NFL problem — it’s a people problem.
We all do it. You, possibly. Me, definitely. More than once, I’ve gotten into my car after a few drinks and driven a few houses — from my neighbor’s driveway to mine — or even a few miles. Was I legally drunk those nights? Not every time, no. But at least once? Probably. To my utter shame: probably.
People do stupid things. There’s no excuse for it — whether it’s you, me or the Cowboys’ Josh Brent — but there’s no NFL explanation for it, either. Josh Brent, after a night of drinking, didn’t climb behind the wheel of that 2007 Mercedes because he was an NFL player. He did it because he’s a human being, and because human beings do stupid things when we’re under the influence of alcohol.
The temptation, though, is to turn the tragedy of Jerry Brown into an indictment of the NFL.
One week earlier, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then himself. Now this. That’s three people dead, two of them NFL players, in two separate incidents in two different states — just seven days apart. By Saturday evening I was getting reactionary tweets like this one: “Murder/suicide, [now] manslaughter, enough player safety talk. How about the public’s safety from players?”
By Sunday morning I was reading reactionary columns like this one in USA Today: “It’s only natural that we should link [the two tragedies] … they were both caused by NFL players who were supposed to be role models, who were cheered and adored, and who ended up committing what the police say are terrible crimes.”
No, the NFL doesn’t have the benefit of our doubt. Nor should it. Too many headlines have come and gone for some of us to see these headlines and not tie them together.
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