Professional Athletes and DWI

Posted by Doug Murphy | Sep 16, 2020 | 0 Comments

On Saturday June 27, police officers in Put-in-Bay, Ohio responded to a call that someone had driven their vehicle off the road and into Lake Erie. When they arrived, they found Jeremiah Braswell, a rookie receiver for the St. Louis Cardinals, still inside the car. According to reports, his speech was slurred and he had no recollection of how his vehicle got into the lake. Upon failing a breathalyzer test, Braswell was arrested and charged with drunk driving.

Braswell had only signed with the Cardinals the previous month out of college and has yet to play a game with them. But he is by far not the only instance of a professional athlete making news headlines for DUI and DWI arrests. The list includes a long line of famous athletes from all sports disciplines, including Carl Lewis, Darryl Strawberry, Michael Phelps, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a host of others. At one point a few years ago, at least 30 percent of arrests involving NFL players were drunk-driving related.

A Look at the Stats

This reality raises an interesting question: Are pro athletes more likely to drink and drive than the average American, or are they just more likely to get news coverage for it? One might presume these athletes feel more of a sense of entitlement, even invincibility, in getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. But is it true?

SBNation sports writer Jon Bois had the same questions, and he decided to go hunting for the answers. He dug up every DUI/DWI arrest report he could find for the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL over a 12-month period and crunched the numbers. He began with the assumption that the arrest rate for DWI was about the same for pro players as for civilians since cops generally don't know who is driving until they pull the vehicle over.

The results were surprising: Among the police reports Bois collected, he discovered that the drunk driving arrest rate for pro athletes was actually less than the average American driver—for some sports, considerably less.

Bois found the DWI arrest rate for all licensed drivers at the time was 1 in 149. Compared to that figure, he came to the following ratios:

  • NFL arrests—1 in 160 drivers
  • NBA arrests—1 in 237.5 drivers
  • MLB arrests—1 in 433 drivers

Remarkably, Bois was unable to find a single example of a pro hockey player arrested for drunk driving during the 12-month period he sampled.

Bear in mind that the incidents of drunk driving may be much higher across the board—after all, not everyone who is over the legal limit manages to get pulled over. But the numbers do suggest that professional athletes tend to drink and drive less often than the average licensed driver—not more. It's just more “newsworthy” when they do.

Perhaps the most important takeaway: The laws for DWI apply to pro athletes the same way they do for everyone else, and the penalties are no less severe. If you've been recently arrested and charged with DWI, you need effective legal representation in your corner to help you navigate a path forward. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Doug Murphy

Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and also in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today

If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.