NFL players are boy scouts compared to the rest of us

Sports, Crime, News

Every time we open Twitter, turn on ESPN, or (dare I say) pick up a newspaper, it seems that another NFL player is getting hauled to jail for one thing or another. Makes you wonder about public safety a bit. However, there is one team that wins the “Super Bowl of Arrests” over the past five years, and the winner may surprise you.

Mike Rosenburg, former San Jose Mercury News sportswriter, recently compiled the arrest data for players of all 32 teams over the past five years and came up with what he called the “standings” for arrests.

The Vikings won this “not-so” Super Bowl with 18 arrests, followed by the Broncos with 16, the Colts and Buccaneers tied with 13, and, rounding out the top-five, the 49ers with 12. Last year’s Super Bowl teams came in at 9 arrests for the Seahawks and 5 for the Patriots. The Colts hold the title for most arrests in the past year with 5. Bleacher Report did a nice round up of all Rosenburg’s research.

But for all the jokes about the National Felon League, it turns out they’re relative model citizens compared to another fearsome group: the general public.

The not-so-flattering statistics

Tempting as it may be to think of the league as a public nuisance filled with pampered lawbreakers, NFL players are actually arrested at lower rates than the rest of us. You just don’t hear about it when the guy selling cars downtown gets a DUI, because it doesn’t affect a million fantasy teams and armchair quarterbacks around the world.

In fact, Benjamin Morris of (an ESPN property) dug deeper on arrests in the NFL after the Ray Rice nightmare, and found out that not only are NFL players arrested at a lower rate than the general public, they’re also arrested at a lower rate than males 25-29 years old – the latter being a more accurate comparison based on the age of NFL players.

He used a combination of the USA Today’s NFL Arrest Database (yes, this exists) and statistics from the Bureau of Justice’s Arrest Data Tool to study arrests per 100,000 for the male population. Of the many things he unearthed, he found DUI’s were the most common offense among both the general public and NFL players. But the next most common arrest charges differed between the two groups, with drug offenses coming in second for the general public but assaults placing second among the NFL players.

However, domestic violence did count for a much bigger percentage of violent crimes by the players than by the general public. The NFL knows this and has been trying to take a firmer stance on this problem.

The point is it’s not just the players who act like morons at times. And statistics have a way of sounding worse than they are. For instance, since the 49ers have moved into Levi’s Stadium, there have been 24 arrests by police for assaults committed by fans. But that represents just a tiny percentage of the 70,000 people who attend every home game.

In the end, most of the NFL’s players are deeply committed to the game and conducting themselves in a professional manner, and most fans just want to have fun, scream their heads off, and celebrate football.

Let’s just hope that news about our new national past time continues to derive primarily from the sports section, and not the police blotter.

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