Open the morning paper (or a news site) and there’s a good chance you’ll see this headline: “NFL Player Arrested.” In 2006, you would have seen that phrase 71 times, with DUI, assault, and gun charges among the list of offenses. After a huge improvement in 2016, things started flying off the rails again in 2017. That’s scary stuff, but researchers from football country (i.e., the University of Texas at Dallas) did their best to push back at the numbers with scientific authority.
“The general population has a greater rate of arrests than players in the NFL,” that UT study concluded. Headlines (doing what they do) from CNN, Sporting News, and CBS trumpeted that very general proclamation across the world. These players are not that bad, they said to fans wondering about their heroes’ violent tendencies. But the headlines were misleading in so many ways.
For starters, NFL players do not struggle to support their families and turn to a life of crime for money; they are rich, among the top 1% of earners. (Not mentioning this point is silly.) Compared to others in their income bracket, football player crime rates are sky-high, especially in domestic violence. Oh, they are also about five times higher than MLB players. So let’s stop kidding ourselves: NFL players get arrested a ton, way more than they should. Here’s our best explanation as to why it’s happening.