Crime rate among NFL players is relatively low, with some caveats


The widespread perception that the NFL has a crime problem is contradicted by a detailed study of player arrests, which found that NFL players are arrested less often than men in their 20s and 30s as a whole.

Alex Piquero, a professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, says people who think NFL players are inordinately finding themselves in legal trouble are wrong.

“The data show that it’s not true. Over a 14-year period, for most types of crime, the general population has a greater rate of arrests than players in the NFL,” Piquero said.

Piquero’s research compared arrests of NFL players to crime data from the FBI for arrests among all men in the United States aged 20 to 39, stretching from 2000 to 2013. In every year, the crime rate was higher for American men in their 20s and 30s than for NFL players.

“The data show that the perception that NFL players are overly criminal compared to the U.S. population is false,” Piquero said. “In fact, when you look at the forest and not the trees, the trends over the 14-year period show that the general population has higher arrest rates than NFL players do.”

That’s not to say this research makes the NFL look great. For starters, NFL players are far wealthier than average men aged 20-39, which means they have far greater resources to keep themselves out of trouble — and far less incentive to commit crimes like theft. Other research has indicated that NFL players’ crime rates may be higher than crime rates of other wealthy Americans.

The researchers also weren’t able to determine whether rates of domestic violence — the crime that has brought the most negative attention to the NFL in the last year — are higher, lower or the same within the NFL as the general population.

And this research relies on media reports to determine how many players are arrested. But that may understate the actual number of arrests in the NFL because it’s possible that some players’ arrests are never reported.

Add it all up, and it’s not so clear that NFL players break the law any less often than American men as a whole. It may be more a matter of NFL players doing a better job of making their problems go away before an arrest hits the news. Especially if they’re taking Cris Carter’s advice.

35 responses to “Crime rate among NFL players is relatively low, with some caveats

  1. Even if pro players have “wealth” a higher percentage come from less well off upbringings. Comparing them to the universe of “wealthy men” is not a very valid comparison.

  2. “In every year, the crime rate was higher for American men in their 20s and 30s than for NFL players.”

    …was that American men making $400k+/year?

  3. What is the arrest rate compared to people 20 to 30 that went to college like they did?

  4. Of course by virtue of sample size, your argument will be flawed to begin with, and yes the NFL has a crime problem or whatever you want to call it.

  5. cuttyplease

    I would argue the exact opposite of what you just said.

    They are “wealthy” so they should not be exposed to the type of crime that is attracted to those with out “wealth.” Everyones life is entirely unique so the only meaningful variable here is “wealth.”

  6. Even if NFL players are good at hiding their crimes from the media, the perception that NFL players have a higher crime rate is still wrong, because that perception is driven by media reports about those crimes. Ultimately, the NFL is a microcosm of young American men. Perhaps slightly better. Certainly no worse. The fact that we don’t like what we see when we look at the NFL just means we’ve become exceptionally good at blinding ourselves to how crime-ridden America has become.

  7. The only “fall guy” I know about is where the wealthy get off, even after committing real crime because the wealthy can afford high do all attorneys. Whose the “fall guy?” The U.S. justice system, who else?

  8. doe22us…

    You use terms like “sample size” but I’m not sure it means what you think it means. The size of the sample is relevant to whether the comparison is statistically significant. The argument is only flawed if, due to the sample size, the findings were not statistically significant but you treat them like they are. Even a very small sample size can show statistically significant differences. In such case, the sample size does not make the argument flawed.

    Now whether they appropriately controlled for various factors is up for debate. But sample size is not really an argument…

    Now about that story on another site that the Eagles have the highest percentage of white players of all the NFL teams (and its not even close)… There might be a “sample size” issue there. But until someone tests it for that, can’t we have a good old round of “Chip’s a racist” articles?

  9. When compared to their income level peers it is a good bet that NFL arrests are far higher than the norm. I don’t follow MLB like I used to but it seems the number of player arrests in that league is lower than the NFL but that may be due to less players or less reporting. If the point of the article is to show the NFL does not have a crime problem, I disagree. If anything it shows the nation has a crime problem as bad as the NFL does.

    I haven’t been arrested nor have many of my friends. Maybe that is due to life circumstances but I would argue that it has more to do with personal responsibility and maturity level. The decision making process should include more ‘that’s wrong’ and ‘I shouldn’t do that’ than ‘I won’t get caught’ or ‘they won’t say anything’.

  10. Most of the NFL is made up of black men who grew up poor, educated in poor schools. And because of their athletic prowess they earn millions. It’s a rags to riches story annually repeated throughout the NFL.

    Yeah, we wish they’d manage their money better. But most of us didn’t possess that wisdom and foresight at 23 either.

    Still, it took a lot of hard work to get where they are. And most don’t do criminal acts in the NFL.

    Just like most black men aren’t criminals in society. But one wouldn’t think that judging by the disproportionate numbers in the penitentiary, many for “pot” crime.

  11. If you’re rich and famous your crime rate tends to be lower than if you’re not. But the amount of crimes you commit is about the same. Figure out why.

  12. How about comparing the sentences of athletes (college and pro) versus non-athletes. This should be very conclusive and show how favored athletes are in comparison to the common man.

    Also, compare common people who have DUIs/DWIs, beat women, beat kids, deal illegal drugs, etc and have their crimes posted in the police blotter which causes embarrassment for their employers, and are fired outright….with athletes who commit the same crimes and cause embarrassment to their schools, their NFL team, the NFL itself, and get a slap on the wrist but get to keep their multi-million dollar jobs because they are represented by a union.

    The NFLPA keeps more criminals in 7-figure jobs than any entity in the world.

  13. That study ignores the issue faced by the league over player behavior. And that’s the rate of crime alleged to have been committed by its employees (in the same age bracket) in comparison to other industries.

    But, of course, we can’t be critical of the players.

  14. this is exactly what I was telling my buddy emoney the other day! lets also compare how many incident there are in baseball and hockey. ill bet if you put both baseball and hockey together it doesn’t add up to the amount of crime and trouble that is in the nfl… but I will bet if you really put a little bit of thought into it you will come to the conclusion why the nfl has many more lawbreakers than major league baseball and hockey combined!!!! #alllivesmatter

  15. What upsets the average fan is the opportunity that these players have to make millions of dollars and still make stupid decisions in their life…

  16. I’ve known this for awhile now, it’s just hard to tell with all the media scrutiny placed on professional athletes

    here is another fun fact- Domestic Violence related arrests and convictions have been steadily decreasing for the past 20 years despite what the feminist media would like for you to believe.

  17. If you are a famous, “college educated”, wealthy athlete who publicly represents a billion dollar franchise, you shouldn’t hang your hat on the fact that you get arrested about the same as everyone else.

  18. Gee, I wonder why there would be a perception that the crime rate is excessively high in the NFL???
    **eye focus slowly shifts to the arrest counter on the right of the screen**

  19. A players background should not factor in to this at all b/c it would only be used as an excuse.

    Suppose that a white player from the mean streets of Normal, USA who grew up in a trailer with one or both parents getting welfare, was drafted into the NFL and committed crimes that made his team and the NFL look bad publicly.

    Would he be “allowed” to use the “yo I grew up po'” card like black players do?

    I highly doubt it.

  20. How about we compare them with other gainfully employed , well educated groups and then see how they fare, THAT’S apples to apples

  21. People determine what the media writes by simply showing attention to the stories. If people stop paying attention to the negative articles then public perception would naturally die down. It’s interesting but people pay more attention to bad than good.

  22. It’s all good man, if you commit a crime lets say in a Walmart parking lot even if it’s caught on tape because your boss will get the tape, destroy it and give you $70 mil on a 5 year deal. Saul Goodman

  23. Flawed from the very first sentence. You’re using player arrests and not crimes committed.

    I would wager what gets swept under the carpet and goes unreported, paid off, or let slide by starstruck cops would add significantly to the numbers.

    Everyone who spouts the ‘its a lower rate than the rest of society’ line doesn’t understand the iceberg principle.

  24. dryzzt23 says:
    Aug 28, 2015 3:19 PM
    A players background should not factor in to this at all b/c it would only be used as an excuse.

    Suppose that a white player from the mean streets of Normal, USA who grew up in a trailer with one or both parents getting welfare, was drafted into the NFL and committed crimes that made his team and the NFL look bad publicly.

    Would he be “allowed” to use the “yo I grew up po’” card like black players do?

    I highly doubt it.
    Spoken from the viewpoint of someone whose known nothing but white privilege throughout his life. What would you know about growing up poor and in a ghetto. Nothing? Understood.

  25. Well first off most wealthy people get off for crimes not just in the NfL but in life because they grease palms, reap the benefits of people being star and power struck and have the money to pay for a great defense. So this is far from a NFL problem. I don’t believe that the problem in the NFL is worse than the other sports I think it is reported or turned in more in the NFL. As an example a family member of mine does part time work as security which includes club detail. One night a well known hockey player invited 5 of his girl friends out to the club for his birthday. Upon finding out about this, one of the girls got incensed and he smacked her in the face. The result? The girl was immediately escorted out upon direction of management the player returned to his party and this never “made” it to press. Hmm.

    Another thing why is coke so rarely found for substance abuse testing. Do they test for that? I have a wide cross section of friends and from what I’ve seen this is just as rampant of an issue. Not to mention it’s been widely reported that in some decades past coke was big in NFL especially on the Steelers. Hard to believe this is no longer an issue in the NFL. Kinda weird how if this is tested why this never seems to be found.

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