Arrests in the off-season of the NFL make for entertaining news. Aaron Hernandez comes to mind recently of course (how many more of them could be murderers!?). But as a sample of a larger population do NFL players actually commit more crimes than any random sample, or is our perception clouded by media over-coverage? For that and more I consult UT San Diego’s NFL Arrest Database and make my own dataset from it to do some analysis on NFL player crimes since 2000 (discluding the current off-season).
DUIs account for nearly a full third of crimes committed by NFL players with assault/battery combining to 15% of all crimes. This is pretty consistent with FBI crime data from a 2012 report which found DUI to be the second leading cause for arrest and for assault/battery to be the most common violent crime. The most apparent difference between FBI crime data and this sample is theft, which is easily explained by wealth effects.
This gives an okay idea of what teams may have something within their culture that needs addressing, but it’s without a doubt misleading. I would be comfortable saying the the St. Louis Rams are a “less criminally inclined” organization than the Minnesota Vikings, but when you try to compare Minnesota to Tennessee, or even a team farther down the list, these claims get murky. This is because not all crime is created equal. Take a look at pie graphs for the top four cities.
Denver has a lot of Assault and Domestic Violence, how can you compare that to Minnesota where they drink and drive and sag their pants too low? You can’t, it’s imperfect, so those rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.
There are still a couple things I can do to approximate to what degree of criminality would exist if these were a pure random sample of the population. First I calculated 13 year average of the crime rates of the nearest metro area of each NFL team, ranked teams using this and then compared that ranking to their original ranking for total crimes committed by players.
There’s a lot going on here, so I highlighted the important stuff. The numbers highlighted in red are teams whose number of crimes committed by players ranks way higher than the city they are from. Green teams are teams who are ranked much lower relative to other teams given the crime rate of the city they are located in, with a gold star going to the St. Louis Rams.
Another way to look at this is by imagining if the sample sizes for crime rate in the city being the same size as the teams. That means I need to scale down from crimes per 100,000 to crimes per 1170, or 90 preseason players across 13 years. That calculation is simply (Crimes(City)*13/100,000)*(x/1170)
The highest ratio seen here is 1:0.6, meaning that at most NFL teams commit 60% as many crimes as any random sample from their metro area’s population. So while they may appear on the news more frequently, NFL players are significantly less criminal than the rest of the population. Refining this to take into account income bracket would be interesting though.
Some things to keep in mind: (1) Players don’t necessarily live in the cities they play football in, (2) so these crimes were not necessarily committed in the city a player plays in, and (3) this does not reflect how much time a player has spent in any one area. But that’s fine, because life is imperfect. Someday I’ll rebrand this blog as a monument to Wabi-sabi and sell out.
The bar graph, much more so than anything else in this analysis, predicates itself on the idea that more crime in any metro area will mean NFL players of that metro area will commit more crime. However, I found no evidence for this. There’s very little correlation between how much crime there is in a city and how much crime is committed by that city’s NFL team, here’s what that looks like
This means that the two parts of this analysis that hold the most weight are the chart that shows total crimes committed by teams and the chart showing the difference. It’s clear that in the last decade there have been significant issues in Minnesota, Cincinnati, Denver, and San Diego NFL programs in either creating enough accountability for players, or drafting and signing irresponsibly. They are, of course, not the only culprits. A+ joke right there.
Oh, you want more? “Vikings” is okay, but “Bengals”? More like the Cincinnati “Batteries” or the Denver “Irreconcilable Differences”. Mile High Stadium should be renamed “Divorce Court”, ha HA got em.
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