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The NFL Players Association has set up a system to provide safe rides for its members.
The agreement with Uber Technologies allows players to use smartphone technology to connect to reliable drivers. In a statement released Wednesday, the union says the partnership "underscores the NFLPA's ongoing commitment to ensuring its members have access to safe, discreet and professional transportation when they need it."
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.” -- DeMaurice Smith
Beginning this month, NFL players will be able to summon a ride in any of Uber's international locations, including nearly 20 NFL cities and Pro Bowl host Honolulu. Once a ride is requested via Uber's smartphone app, a ride will arrive within minutes.
Uber and the union will distribute personalized key-chain cards containing ride credits to every active NFL player. The New York Times reported that players will be offered credits totaling $200 to entice them to use the service.
"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," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said. "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."
By using the smartphone app, players will be able to summon a ride without having to make an actual phone call or give directions. A GPS system is built into the program.
"We're working to educate city governments that this reduces drunk driving and gets people out of their cars," Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber and a co-founder, told The Times. "Sometimes, pro players' lives are unscheduled, and that's where Uber can be helpful."
Many NFL teams have offered safe rides to their players for years and also provide assistance from their security and player engagement departments.
Still, there have been problems. As Smith pointed out, in December, then-Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent tested positive for a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit after the car he was driving crashed and killed teammate Jerry Brown. Brent, who has since retired from football, could get 20 years in prison if convicted.
"The goal for us is to change behavior," Smith said. "Currently in the United States we have increased enforcement and penalties, there's been increased focus [on drunk driving]. Last year, we had a tragic accident in Texas.
"There already are dramatic penalties far above what the commissioner can impose in the NFL."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.