With attorney fees, insurance boosts and actual fines, the estimated total cost of a DUI conviction in Colorado is around $9,000. This season, Carmelo Anthony, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Denver earlier this week, will make almost 1,500 times that amount in NBA contract money alone. It is time that the NBA started to do more than put its players in collared shirts before games and added a real cost to such dangerous behavior for its players.

In the NBA, you are more likely to miss a game for being late to a shootaround than driving drunk. I’m not sure how or why this has happened, but getting a DUI doesn’t seem to be a big deal anymore. Upwards of 15,000 people a year die in alcohol-related vehicle accidents, but nobody seems outraged by Anthony’s indiscretion on moral grounds.

It seems that the only thing people are mad at Anthony for is distracting his team in such a crucial part of the season. Forget the fact that he was too drunk to stay in his lane or dim his lights for passing motorists, Allen Iverson’s pregame focus might be thrown off.

The Denver Post article on the issue quoted Melo’s teammate Yakhouba Diawara as saying, “He knows we’re right there.” Coach George Karl lamented the distraction but commiserated with Anthony, saying, “We also feel for him. I think we have all made mistakes.” I would hope the entire Nuggets franchise isn’t driving around drunk at 4 a.m. “weaving between lanes.”

Since when is this considered a trivial mistake anyway? Did he accidentally drive home from wherever he was at 4 a.m.? Did he forget that he was too drunk to dim his lights to passing motorists and stay in his lane? This is the same guy who had marijuana in his backpack in an airport, starred in a video against snitching in Baltimore and sucker punched a Knick this time last season. Melo’s making enough mistakes for the whole team.

While the Nuggets coddle their franchise player, the NBA certainly isn’t going to do anything any time soon. There seems to be no clear policy on punishing DUI offenses in the random judicial system that is NBA law, but there is almost no chance the league will act without a court conviction. Anthony’s scheduled court date is May 14, and who knows if he will be convicted on day one. While it’s unlikely the Nuggets will still be in the playoffs on May 14, it’s even less likely that Anthony will miss a minute of action even if they are, and this is a problem the NBA needs to fix.

There are certainly economic reasons for the league to keep its players out of the newspapers, but the NBA also has a moral obligation to keep its multi-millionaire players out of trouble. Unlike the business world where a DUI arrest could spell bad news at work (see “Mighty Ducks”), there is no real reason for an NBA star like Anthony not to drive drunk at 4 a.m.

If he gets caught and the arresting officer actually takes in a local hero, Anthony can pay the fine without thinking and do some community service he would have done anyway to meet his team requirement. Sure, he may lose a few dollars in endorsements at first, but we sports fans have short memories, and it would just take a year or so with a clean nose to get all those deals back. If the NBA really cares about stopping drunk driving, it needs to put a penalty on conviction that would really deter players.

The one thing that would really matter to Anthony would be hurting his team. If the so-called “distraction” he is causing is what the national media is getting on him for already, imagine how bad it would be if he was suspended for a playoff game. He may have thought twice if he thought his team’s playoff chances, not just an afternoon of service, were at stake.

To provide such a deterrent, the NBA needs to adopt a sliding scale of suspensions for players based on the number of DUI offenses. One game seems fair for a first offense, and the suspension should be assessed after the blood test results are published, rather than after a court date. A player could manipulate the court system to avoid missing an important game, but a blood test won’t lie. When Melo’s results come out in two weeks, if he is over the limit, what judicial reason is there to wait for his court date? Send a message to the players, and sit him down for a game.

In the past two years, at least six NBA players and coaches (not counting the multitude of ex-players, including Gin Baker, who rack up the DUIs) have been charged with driving under the influence, and the NBA has taken little or no action to curb this trend. The League has made great strides since the Palace Brawl to clean up its image, but if drunk driving by players continues to go unpunished, how long will it take for there to be an accident of some kind? Boy, would that be a distraction.

Jamie Leader is a junior in the College. He can be reached at leaderthehoya.com. FOLLOW THE LEADER appears in every other issue of HOYA SPORTS.

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