Friday, September 19, 2014

NFL Off-Field Violence

News reports and comments by many who fancy themselves qualified to advance an opinion have painted the National Football League as a haven for thugs and criminals. I started crunching some numbers seeking to learn whether that image is deserved.

The first thing I learned is that a whole lot of people, from  media pundits to social scholars, have been busy recording and  playing with NFL crime statistics for a long time. There was no need for me to do much original work.  A simple computer search for "NFL arrest records" produced all sorts of numbers and analyses. Following are what I believe to be the more significant items:

*Precisely 687 NFL players have been arrested (not convicted, mind you) since January 1, 2000, most for assaults. The annual number has been declining since 2006, an indication that the league has made some progress in efforts to improve its image, primarily through educational programs for players.

*Including all players under contract, about 1,800 are available each year to be arrested. Considering the typical pro football career lasts a bit less than three years and doing the math with the 13-year arrest total, I get an arrest rate slightly higher than 1 percent.

*Some number crunchers, probably more skilled than the geezer, say the arrest rate for assaults in the NFL is two percent. Assuming that to be close to the actual rate, it is less than half the national rate (based on FBI statistics). It also is far less than the National Basketball Association rate (5.1 percent). Basketball supposedly is a "non-contact sport." That's a laugher. However, the NFL rate is slightly below the 2.1 percent rate for major league baseball; baseball actually is basically a non-contact sport, and thus we might mistakenly think players are less violent types than the gridiron heroes.

*Considering the analyses that appear most legitimate and trying to mix in some common sense, it seems fair to conclude that criminal activity by NFL players is well below that for comparable groups in the general population--young males, including a large number of blacks.
Far more good guys than bad.
Obviously, media attention magnifies the NFL situation. We are not treated to national television reports whenever a factory worker or shoe salesman hits his wife or "whoops" his kids. Nevertheless,  it is true that professional athletes in America long have been held up as role models for our youth. Therefore it seems proper that they should be held to a higher standard of conduct. They are employees of their team owners, and in many U.S. states employers concerned with the firm's image are legally able to fire employees for any conduct they consider detrimental, except in situations where a union agreement exists.

The NFL players have a strong union, and agreements are in place covering all the teams. Therefore, it is not possible for owners acting individually or through the league office to summarily fire a player for misbehaving. I believe the NFL owners in concert with the union should move quickly to establish clear policy pertaining to domestic violence. Much of the problem in pro football is the helter-skelter nature of the discipline. Badly needed is a well-defined action plan that is easily understood and applied without a whole lot of exceptions.

After some poor moves, what the Minnesota Vikings finally did in the case of star player Adrian Peterson, who admitted to doing violence to his four-year-old son after being arrested, should serve as a model. Suspend the player with pay from all team participation until the criminal justice system has run its course. If the player is found not guilty, reinstate him. If he is found guilty, suspend him for a year without pay added to any jail time he serves, which should be a sufficient penalty, but one that gives the player some opportunity to resurrect his career.


Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned most of the offenses committed by these thugs are never reported, assaults on women being one of them. Football ain't what it once was. Many of the players grew up throwing their weight around and continue to do it on and off the field. Check out Big AL's take on this subject. You can find the link in my blog roll.

PiedType said...

Agreed, the league needs some firm, clear cut rules, not arbitrary case-by-case decision-making. They need to make some major changes. And I wonder if Goodell is the one to do it, or if the best first step toward cleaning up their image would be to hire a new commissioner.

Dick Klade said...

Dianne . . . I think you are right that a lot of the domestic abuse goes unreported, but that also is true throughout our society. But highly visible people who assume positions of leadership (and major sports figures do) should be extra-careful about avoiding that sort of behavior. If the publicity now generated by NFL deportment problems has an up side, it is the fact that so much attention is being called to the general problem.

Dick Klade said...

Pied . . . I watched Goodell's media appearance to explain things. If the investigation now under way shows he lied about seeing the second tape in the elevator assault case, or people directly under his supervision lied, I think he should be fired immediately. Other than that, he readily admitted his mistakes and showed determination to correct the system. He seemed sincere about that, and I think the owners should give him some time to perform before considering dismissing him.

Tom Sightings said...

Answer me this -- not to challenge you . . . well okay, to challenge you, but in a good way. How can a liberal be a football fan? Liberals are all about peace, nonviolence, equality, fairness, tolerance. Football is all about beating the other person, knocking them down, outsmarting them and out-muscling them. How is a pro football player different from a Wall Street banker? Both get paid millions to win, win, win.

Dick Klade said...

Excellent question, Tom. It probably would be difficult for an ultra-liberal to be a football fan because of the violence. But there are all shades of liberalism and conservatism. My views are liberal in some matters--favoring social justice and tolerance--but conservative in others--favoring free enterprise, fiscal integrity, personal freedom and responsibility.

Who does not claim to yearn for peace, except perhaps extreme members of the military-industrial complex and the leaders of ISIS and similar groups? I do not oppose meeting violence with violence when the situation calls for it.

In essence, the liberal-conservative labels don't work very well for me. I see football as entertainment. Wall street bankers are not trying to entertain us; they are trying to extract every last dime from our pocketbooks.

Of course, one could argue that the owners of professional football teams are only interested in entertaining us to reap huge profits. Remember though, I'm a Green Bay Packers fan. We don't have a greedy owner, and we just love to beat all those teams that do.

Kay said...

The media reports about the football players really disgusted me. How could they be so lenient when he knocked out his fiance and why did she marry him?

Now here in Hawaii, the news is all about a police officer who beat up his girlfriend in a store and it's caught on video. It's all so pitiful!