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.
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
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 America
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. U.S.
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.