In his first column back from vacation (which included no arrests — that we know of), Peter King of SI.com points out the statistical realities of arrests in pro football.
The 1.9-percent arrest rate among pro football players comes in far lower than the 2010 arrest rate for all Americans, at 4.9 percent.
Writes King, “[I]t’s not so easy to simply say, ‘Too many players are getting arrested.’ Compared to what, exactly?”
His question was rhetorical, but for these purposes I’ll treat it as literal.
Compared to baseball, basketball, and hockey, for starters. Though I don’t know what the arrest rates are for the other major-league American sports, there’s a loose sense that arrests are a far bigger issue for the NFL than for the NBA, the NHL, and MLB. It would be a surprise if the rate for other sports matches or exceeds the NFL’s.
Compared to the other industries that play out in the public eye, like entertainment and politics. Again, the arrest rates for musicians and actors and elected officials haven’t been compiled and calculated, but generally speaking the perception is that the NFL stands at the top (or, more accurately, bottom) of the heap.
Finally, compared to our perceptions, expectations, and experiences. Regardless of how the numbers compare to the overall societal arrest rate for all persons, most arrests don’t make headlines or spark debates And we expect men with more to lose and greater resources to avoid losing it to behave better than folks who are churning through the jails and courts and probation offices, skewing the total rate via multiple and repeated arrests and re-arrests and re-re-arrests.
In this regard, the NFL is a victim of its own success. Because the game is so popular, anything and everything that happens to anyone who plays the game or who is involved in playing the game gets extra attention and scrutiny. Though the goal should be zero arrests, the periodic bad publicity is a small price to pay for the NFL’s ever-growing profile and profits.
Especially since there’s still no reason to think that the “problem” has in any way affected the league’s popularity.