Vikings punter Chris Kluwe doesn't shy away from controversy.
He has spoken out about his belief that gay couples should be able to marry, even creating an public service announcement on it before the matter came to a vote in Minnesota this fall. As recently as Sunday, Kluwe placed athletic tape over his Hall of Fame patch and wrote "Vote Ray Guy," Kluwe's way of letting everyone know that the Hall of Fame doesn't have a punter inducted. That move cost Kluwe a $5,250 fine for a uniform violation, something he knew was coming because "I actually read my CBA each year."
"It got people talking about it. I heard the (FOX) broadcast team talked about it for a bit," Kluwe said. "Hopefully people will realize, hey, punters aren't in the Hall of Fame. Maybe we should do something about that."
So, when Kluwe was asked Wednesday about the drinking-and-driving death of Dallas Cowboys player Jerry Brown, Kluwe had no problem voicing his opinion on the matter. Brown was a passenger in a vehicle driven by teammate Josh Brent, who was allegedly driving while intoxicated and speeding when his vehicle hit a curb and flipped, according to police.
Kluwe said there are plenty of resources available for players who have been drinking.
"I think the league does plenty. They have resources available for us. Teams have individual resources available for us," Kluwe said. "Ultimately, it comes down to at the end of the day are guys going to do the right thing or not. You can only lead a horse to water so many times. It's awful, but you can't make him drink if he doesn't want. If guys are going to do the right thing, it's because they want to do the right thing."
The league and NFLPA both have programs to provide chauffeur services to players, and some agents even provide them. Players just have to call for a ride.
"We have those presentations every year during fall camp. It's: ‘Here's our security guys. Here's our number. Call us – don't be afraid to call us. Here's the league's program – don't be afraid to call them.' There are resources," Kluwe said.
According to a report in USA Today, NFL players fall into the most at-risk demographic for drinking and driving, with males ages 21-34 responsible for 42 percent of all fatal DUI crashes.
Males 20-29 years old have a DUI rate of about 1.5 percent, according to FBI statistics cited by USA Today. NFL players are actually far better than the general population in that demographic, getting arrested for DUIs at a rate of 0.7 percent.
Still, Kluwe said there is an attitude of invincibility among NFL players that might make them more susceptible to danger.
"It's part of the culture. We're raised to feel invincible out on the football field. We're running around – me not so much – but running into people. You have that mindset that nothing can ever happen to me because I'm so good at what I do," Kluwe said. "But, in reality, when your judgment is impaired and you get behind the wheel of a two-ton automobile, it doesn't matter how fast you run a 40(-yard dash), physics is going to take its course. Guys need to realize that it's OK to ask for help, to call someone and say, ‘Look, I can't make it home. Can you please come pick me up?'"
Kluwe said concerns about coaches finding out should be overridden by concerns for general safety.
"First off, they should be asking themselves why are they drinking the night before a game because that's not going to help your playing time. Secondly, it's much more important to be safe and do the right thing than to worry about possibly getting a fine or your coaches finding out because it's completely confidential," Kluwe said. "Our security guys, they're not going to tell the coaches because they realize if word of that gets out, no one is going to use it. Their main concern is keeping guys safe. At the end of the day, would you rather have been fined five grand for being too late or be in jail for four to five years and having to live with the death of someone who is your best friend? When you weigh the consequences, call someone."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.