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NFL arrest problem more about perceptions than statistics

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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.

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35 Responses to “NFL arrest problem more about perceptions than statistics”
  1. Rick Spielman is a Magician says: Jul 15, 2013 10:54 AM

    To be fair, a lot of elected officials should be arrested.

  2. nflcrimerankingscom says: Jul 15, 2013 10:55 AM

    Since the Superbowl there have been a touch under 30 arrests, figure 55 players per team that gets you about 1.8% arrests per player (yes a few are non-players).

    But that’s 1.8% in < 6 months. Should have ~ 60 arrests by the next Superbowl.

  3. nananatman says: Jul 15, 2013 10:58 AM

    Or even more of them deserve to be arrested and we’re just catching up. Maybe the idea that star power puts you above and beyond law is over.

  4. truthfactory says: Jul 15, 2013 10:58 AM

    A 1.9% arrest rate is likely the percentage through this current year. There is 5 or 6 months left in the year and that can easily double to approach 4%. Also, why cherry pick out 2010?? Is that the highest arrest rate in recent history to make your case more valid??

    Also, that arrest rate includes many people in poverty where drugs and illegal activity are much higher and arrests are also much higher. For a more apple to apple comparison, they should compare arrest rates in the NFL compared to other wealthy millionaires to see if there is a difference. My guess is that it would be drastically different.

  5. essentialsausage says: Jul 15, 2013 11:07 AM

    They shouldn’t compare the NFL arrest rate to that of the whole population. What percentage of the whole population that makes $500,000+ per year gets arrested? I bet it’s lower than 1.9%.

  6. lastdukestreetking says: Jul 15, 2013 11:11 AM

    I suspect the in-season (beginning with training camp) arrest rate is lower than off-season. More free time for some to get in trouble.

  7. nmking26 says: Jul 15, 2013 11:17 AM

    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.

    ____________________
    That would be a terrible comparison. There are far more players in the NFL than there are in the other leagues so naturally there are more arrests. One NFL team has more players than two teams in each of the other sports.

  8. banger60 says: Jul 15, 2013 11:32 AM

    Does it not affect the kids who look up to these guys as superstars or role models, saying I want to be just him when I play football, also in those days players were not also making ignorant comments such as the other day, explain that to a child!

  9. firstclasspack says: Jul 15, 2013 11:45 AM

    I find it hard to believe that 4.9% of all Americans were arrested in 2010. However if that number is true then you have to factor how many of those arrests were due to someone being desperate for money because they didn’t have a high paying job. I’m not saying that justifies criminal behavior I’m just saying that NFL players don’t have those worries.

    Also, it seems that most NFL arrests are for serious violations such as DUI or assault and now we can include murder. I’m betting that of the 4.9% of all Americans that were arrested most of those were for non-violent offenses or traffic related things.

  10. sammysushi says: Jul 15, 2013 11:48 AM

    How many NFL players get a pass from the cops? Jovan Belcher comes to mind. Had he been arrested, like most people would who are sitting in their car impaired with the keys in the vehicle, would he have killed his girlfriend? Odds are not that day because he would have been in jail.

  11. airraid77 says: Jul 15, 2013 11:53 AM

    statistics like that are almost never reported. again an attack on success….never fails.

  12. heeeeelzfan says: Jul 15, 2013 12:02 PM

    Like it or not, agree or disagre: Perception is reality.

  13. lks311 says: Jul 15, 2013 12:06 PM

    So when the list is littered with Patriots, as opposed to Detroit Lions’ players, it’s more perception than reality. Great.

  14. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 15, 2013 12:10 PM

    When one considers the short duration of their pro sports careers and their high pay which is in the upper echelon of society, it would seem any arrests are easily criticised. Not to mention many are college graduates which I would think are arrested less often in society.

    For example many of the arrests are drinking and driving related and a lot of citizens can’t understand why they can’t arrange other transportation. It can’t be a money issue can it?

    I suppose money can not buy them class or common snese.

  15. harryspudder says: Jul 15, 2013 12:10 PM

    I work for a company that is slightly larger in number of employees than the NFL. I would actually love to know if our arrest rate is 1.9%…I doubt it but I would love to know!!! I kind of hope so just for good office gossip…

  16. FinFan68 says: Jul 15, 2013 12:11 PM

    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.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    the 4.9% number includes all the little old ladies and men who never venture out of the house. Why bother with statistics when you can manipulate them however you want? What are the arrest statistics of males 22-40 who earn what the average NFL player earns? That would be more telling.

  17. theoriginalbvan says: Jul 15, 2013 12:16 PM

    Have you ever seen a set of cuffs put on that loosely? LOL

  18. thehouseofho says: Jul 15, 2013 12:24 PM

    @truthfactory says:
    Jul 15, 2013 10:58 AM
    A 1.9% arrest rate is likely the percentage through this current year. There is 5 or 6 months left in the year and that can easily double to approach 4%. Also, why cherry pick out 2010?? Is that the highest arrest rate in recent history to make your case more valid??

    Also, that arrest rate includes many people in poverty where drugs and illegal activity are much higher and arrests are also much higher. For a more apple to apple comparison, they should compare arrest rates in the NFL compared to other wealthy millionaires to see if there is a difference. My guess is that it would be drastically different.
    =====
    I think 2010 was picked because it was the last census taken.

  19. mancave001 says: Jul 15, 2013 12:31 PM

    Don’t care about the rate. These people are privileged to work/play in the NFL. The lowest plaid player makes 12 times what a public school teacher does on average…yet gets a much longer leash with the law. These people are part of a public profession , and need to act accordingly. DUI should result in a mandatory 1 year suspension. Assault or other charges? 2 years, minimum. Subsequent offenses? Goodbye forever. Welcome to the real world, you overpaid babies.

  20. melikefootball says: Jul 15, 2013 12:36 PM

    How many have been confronted by the police but when they find out this is a NFL player let the incident pass. Comes down to the sad fact these players have gotten away with whatever they do since high school especially if they are a so called star, we read about it in college all the time. Such and such player arrested for shop lifting or breaking and entering, the schools as well as NCAA seem to look the other way. So here come tons of money big shots in the NFL and for some hard to believe reason they want to find trouble again.

  21. kleppnasty says: Jul 15, 2013 12:43 PM

    This article would be more compelling with stats from other leagues, is the NFL the only league that keeps track of arrests?
    As for everyone saying it’s unfair to compare the NFL to the general public, why? The players in the NFL make a ton of money, but they also come from all walks of life, including a large percentage coming from bad to terrible up bringings. If you’re willing to argue that poor areas are more likely to have higher rates of crime/drugs, then you have to be willing to accept that players from those areas have a higher chance of having crime/drugs in their life.
    Finally, do we really think the NFL is different from any other profession that pays a lot of money? Musicians and actors are getting arrested for having, or worse dying from, drugs more often than professional athletes.

  22. channer81 says: Jul 15, 2013 12:45 PM

    nflcrimerankingscom says: Jul 15, 2013 10:55 AM

    Since the Superbowl there have been a touch under 30 arrests, figure 55 players per team that gets you about 1.8% arrests per player (yes a few are non-players).

    But that’s 1.8% in < 6 months. Should have ~ 60 arrests by the next Superbowl.

    ====================================

    I wonder if King included practice squad players in his math. Because your total players swells from 1500 total to around 1800, and 1.9% turns into 1.6%

    Just saying.

  23. prospero63 says: Jul 15, 2013 12:51 PM

    Same could be said about gun use and crime. Perception, especially as reported, is dramatically different than the statistics support. That’s one of the reasons why it’s such a disservice when the press decides to report on content inaccurately. It fosters the incorrect perception.

  24. wjarvis says: Jul 15, 2013 1:07 PM

    Well not sure if this is actually true or not, but according to an msn article “Off Field arrests for violence plague pro football” Between July 2012 and a little over 2 weeks ago there were 6 arrests for the NBA, 3 for MLB, and 0 for the NHL. Yes there are more players in the NFL than any of those leagues, but 9 total players for 3 combined leagues in a year vs 30 in 6 months make it seem like the NFL has a little bigger problem.

    I’d also be interested in how many players from each league are arrested after their careers end not just while active in the league. I think that is probably part of the problem since the NFL has a lot more high profile arrests of former players.

  25. gb4mn0 says: Jul 15, 2013 1:20 PM

    Rick Spielman is a Magician says:
    Jul 15, 2013 10:54 AM
    To be fair, a lot of elected officials should be arrested.
    ———————————————–

    This might be the only time we will ever be in total agreement.

    Both parties are wrought with corrupt members and this administration is dangerously corrupt.

  26. immafubared says: Jul 15, 2013 1:29 PM

    OK so I’m perceiving that most of those arrested are black and most of those arrested in society are black also, that must be a parallel view that I’m perceiving a penchant for black people to commit crimes?

  27. radioactivechimp says: Jul 15, 2013 1:31 PM

    How is it that 4.9% of Americans get arrested each year?

    Is this statistic just arrests divided by number of citizens, or is it that 4.9% of the population got arrested?

  28. frankiesweep says: Jul 15, 2013 1:33 PM

    Doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds him no doubt.

  29. frankiesweep says: Jul 15, 2013 1:34 PM

    I’m guessing the NHL is the lowest… Just a guess.

  30. sidepull says: Jul 15, 2013 1:57 PM

    One day the rumor mill will dispense with the countdown of arrests and quit wasting space on criminals, giving them a platform for recognition.

    Maybe start dedicating space to all the NFL players who do service work, make donations, have made noteworthy contributions and are true role models. ray Lewis is a joke to try and throw him in with this crowd. He belongs on the list above of folks who should be passed by.
    But they cant. The are criminal jock sniffers.

    Its sad when the do gooders out weigh the criminals and the press for the criminals outweighs the press for the upstanding players.

  31. funktron2x says: Jul 15, 2013 2:03 PM

    I have no clue about the other sports, but entertainment probably has the nfl beat here on Lindsey Lohan alone.

  32. thestrategyexpert says: Jul 15, 2013 2:33 PM

    I say the NFL should put forth effort to both trying to bring down the statistics and improving perception. They aren’t doing either presently.

  33. bengalguy says: Jul 15, 2013 3:14 PM

    So its only a problem when Bengals players get arrested?????

  34. justsayin973 says: Jul 15, 2013 4:09 PM

    Considering NFL players are role models for our youth, anything other than a 0% arrest rate is unacceptable. I don’t care who it is or how talented they are, these guys should be held to a higher standard & any convicted felon should be banned for life.

  35. 4ever9er says: Jul 15, 2013 4:27 PM

    I think everyone should take a step back and realize that these are arrest, not convictions. Anyone can be arrested, that doesn’t mean that they are guilty. I was working for a company and while making a delivery I was accused of robbing a store the day before by 2 undercover police officers who claimed that they saw me on a surveillance tape. I told them that they were crazy and I was charged with resisting arrest (even though I didn’t attempt to leave). I was taken to jail, my company’s truck was impounded and I was suspended from work. During the crime that I supposedly committed there was a gun involved, so I was held without bail. After spending 6 days in jail, the actual criminal committed 2 more robberies the same way. After I was released with no apology I might add, I had to get a Lawyer to get my job back with back pay and have the arrest taken off of my record. I saw the video that supposedly showed me robbing the store; the guy was about 60lbs heavier and clean shaven. I had a goatee and a full head of hair at the time I was arrested.
    Once again arrest doesn’t mean guilt!!!

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