The arrest of NFL Patriot Mark Hernandez raises the question of NFL crime rates. Is there a problem? a friend who was commenting on this article said:  American has a crime problem;  but we would not have a crime problem if we behaved like the NFL!

Well, under commissioner Goodell the number of NFL crimes have dropped from 68 to 40 during the past 6 years. But is there a problem?

A disinguished economist Stephan Bronars says "no." He asserts the NFL crime rate is only 2.9% vs. 10.8% from the general population.

An actuary gets an entirely different perspective. The analysis must refect the actual to expected crime rates relecting the distribution of cohorts in the population.  Consider that blacks represent about 13.1% of 2012 census population;  and that 32.2% of young blacks are in jail or paroled;  and that 65% of the NFL are blacks. I am not going to work out the math here, but NFL crime (risk adjusted) is hardly a fraction of the crime perpetrated by the general public.

The NFL is a model organization in controlling crime within its ranks!

NFL trivia; 1 of 6 NFL crimes are commited by tight ends;  1 of 7 by corner backs;  but only 1 of 98 by offensive guards. Why?  There's an actuarial answer.

HARTFORD (CBS Connecticut) — Does the National Football League have a crime problem?

CBS News reports that 27 players have been arrested since the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Just over the past two days alone two players are facing murder charges. New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd while Cleveland Browns rookie Ausar Walcott was charged with attempted murder Monday for allegedly punching a man in the head outside a club in New Jersey.

Both players were subsequently cut following their arrests.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come down hard on players for their criminal transgressions since taking over for Paul Tagliabue and CBS Sports host James Brown says that won’t change.

“Roger Goodell has been very resolutely focused on cleaning up the league,” Brown told “CBS This Morning.” “He has come in under a law and order mandate, personal mandate, and that is going to be his legacy.”

Brown added that Goodell is “very serious in attacking” just one violation.

Brown also said that despite the 27 arrests, if put in context, it’s still only 1 percent of the population.

“Because it’s a high-profile, elite level of athletes, any aberrant behavior is going to be magnified,” Brown said.

Other notable players who have been arrested during the offseason are Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones for allegedly assaulting a woman at a nightclub, Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jason Peters for allegedly drag racing and trying to elude the police and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Rolando McClain for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.


Does The NFL Have A Crime Problem? It’s Complicated

Aaron Hernandez at a court hearing Wednesday. (Credit: AP)

The arrest of Aaron Hernandez on murder and gun charges Wednesday morning has sparked another conversation about crime in the National Football League, one that pops up seemingly every time the league experiences a rash of arrests. Hernandez’s was the 27th arrest of an NFL player since the Super Bowl in February; it was the first of two arrests relating to violent crime charges Wednesday alone.

The oft-repeated 27 arrests statistic has fed the idea that the NFL has a crime problem, but actual data would seem to refute that. The arrest rate for NFL players has averaged about 2.9 percent over the last decade, roughly a fourth the 10.8 percent arrest rate for males between the ages of 22 and 34 over the same period, according to economist Stephen Bronars. And over the last seven years, the NFL’s rate is dropping. After peaking at 64 in 2006, the number of arrests has steadily fallen since, Bronars found:

So why does the idea of the NFL’s “crime problem” persist? Part of it is that an arrested football player is an immediate media story. It drives news coverage for both sports and general news outlets, and there are a variety of angles: not only is the crime intriguing, but so is whether it will lead to suspensions or disciplinary action that could impact the player’s team or fantasy football owners. Every arrest, then, is ripe for a media feeding frenzy, and racial bias around a league where minorities make up 67 percent of players only feeds it more.

But the problem isn’t one of perception alone, particularly when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault. NFL players may not commit such crimes at an equal rate to the general population, but in the past, they’ve been convicted of them far less often, as Slate’s Justin Peters wrote after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself in December:

In a 1997 study, Northeastern University’s Jeffrey Benedict and Alan Klein found that the athletes in their sample who were charged with sexual assault were only convicted 31 percent of the time, compared with a 54 percent conviction rate for the general population. In 1995, Maryann Hudson at the Los Angeles Times found that athletes charged with domestic violence were only convicted 36 percent of the time, compared with a 77 percent general conviction rate. In a 2010 Harvard Law Review article, Bethany Withers wrote that “conviction rates for athletes are astonishingly low compared to the arrest statistics. Though there is evidence that the responsiveness of police and prosecution to sexual assault complaints involving athletes is favorable, there is an off-setting pro-athlete bias on the part of juries.”

What happens, then, is that the already-existing perception of a crime problem clashes with another perception — that the perpetrators aren’t being held accountable — and this second belief may be closer to reality. When fans can’t turn on a game without seeing someone who’s been arrested on the field, the idea that a crime problem exists is much easier to believe.

It’s good that the NFL gives players, particularly those like Michael Vick and others who have served their time and paid their penance, a second chance, and it’s important to remember that an arrest doesn’t always equal a conviction. It’s also good that the NFL’s arrest rate has improved, even if Roger Goodell’s decision to grant himself the power to impose suspensions and disciplinary actions sometimes seems arbitrary. But while it may not have a crime problem per se, a league whose teams, players, and actions have an outsized role in our society ought to be judged by a higher standard than the general population, particularly when it involves violent crimes, and never more so than when it involves domestic violence and sexual assault. The good news is that, if the suspensions and declining arrest rates are an indication, the NFL is both conscious of that and intent on improving even more.


Does the NFL Have a Crime Problem?

The horrific crimes committed by NFL players in the past ten days have prompted many to ask a logical question: Does the NFL have a crime problem?  The tragic murder of Kassandra Perkins by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Javon Belcher, who committed suicide in front of coaches and team personnel, cast a pall over last weekend’s games.  This weekend Josh Brent was arrested for drunk-driving and manslaughter for a car accident that killed Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown.  While police are still investigating why Belcher killed the mother of his young daughter and took his own life, Brent had been arrested in college for drunk-driving making the tragic accident that killed Brown even more senseless and depressing.  All NFL players should not be painted with a broad brush, despite the inexcusable actions of Belcher and Brent.  NFL players are arrested about one-fourth as often as men age 22 to 34 in the general population.

Over the past decade there have been 489 arrests of NFL players for offenses more serious than speeding (and lesser traffic violations).  These data are based on the San Diego Union Tribune’s arrests database for NFL players that I update with a recent story by Fox Sports.  On average this amounts to one arrest per 35 players per year, or about 1.5 arrests per team per year.  The arrest rate for NFL players has averaged about 2.9% compared to 10.8% for men age 22 to 34 (based on FBI crime data by age for men in 2009).  Commissioner Roger Goodell is not satisfied with an arrest rate that is merely below the average for men in the U.S.  As the graph below indicates arrests of NFL players were increasing until Goodell became commissioner in 2006.  Since then the number of NFL players arrested per year has fallen by about 40%.


All players are not equally likely to be arrested.  A simple analysis of the arrest data establish a clear difference in arrests by position:

  • Wide Receivers accounted for more than 1 out of 6 arrests
  • Cornerbacks accounted for about 1 out of 7 arrests
  • Linebackers accounted for 1 out of 8 arrests
  • Punters and Kickers accounted for 1 out of 82 arrests
  • Offensive Guards accounted for only 1 out of 98 arrests

There are also clear differences in arrest rates by team.  Four teams had substantially more arrests than the NFL average of about 15 arrests every 10 years.  Over the past decade 36 Minnesota Vikings, 29 Tennessee Titans and 28 Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos have been arrested.  The Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers had less than half as many arrests as the typical NFL team since 2003.

It should  be emphasized that for NFL players (and all persons arrested), an arrest is only an arrest and does not mean that the player was guilty of the crime for which he had been arrested. 

The serious and tragic crimes committed by NFL players in the past 10 days are shocking and disturbing to sports fans.  However, a closer look at arrests of NFL players shows that they have a much lower arrest rate than men of a similar age in the general population.  Moreover, the arrests of NFL players have fallen by 40% in the past six years as Roger Goodell has made it a priority to reduce bad behavior off the field.  NFL players should not all be judged based on the serious crimes committed by two players.

Note: In 2009 the FBI reported 2.88 million arrests of men age 22 to 34 for offenses more serious than speeding and traffic violations (but including drunk-driving).  the Census Bureau reports that the civilian population of men age 22 to 34 was about 26.6 million in 2010.

Brophy Friday 28 June 2013 - 08:43 am | | Brophy Blog

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