The National Football League always makes headlines and front-page news during the fall season. This year, it’s happening for reasons that have little to do with football.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer. All have found themselves facing legal battles in 2014.
Rice was cut and suspended following him striking his then-fiancee with a left hook while the two were in an Atlantic City casino in February. Dwyer, Peterson and Hardy have been made inactive by their clubs. McDonald has been allowed to play despite being accused of domestic abuse.
As NFL player arrests and potential cover-ups continue to be discussed on ESPN and sports talk radio, the integrity of the league has come under fire from fans, advertisers and even some in the United States political world. According to a NY Times report from September 2014, there have been 713 instances of NFL players being involved in some sort of legal issue since 2000.
While that seems high, remember that not all of those matters involved players going to jail or being found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Here are 10 amazing facts about NFL player arrests since 2000.
Date accurate as of September 12, 2014
10. Small Markets = More NFL Player Arrests?
So-called small market clubs dominate the top of the list of NFL player arrests per team. The Minnesota Vikings are the leader of the pack with 44 players arrested since 2000. The Cincinnati Bengals are one behind the Vikes, while the Denver Broncos sit at 40. The Tennessee Titans (32) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31) finish off the top five.
A popular thought is that NFL players living in major metropolitan areas would be less likely to drive to bars and clubs, thus exposing themselves to fewer evenings when they may be charged with DUI/DWI. What is upsetting about that notion is that every NFL team provides car-and-driver services to players, and every NFL city has multiple companies that offer the same.
No NFL player, especially one making seven figures, should ever be arrested for DUI.
9. The Most Well-Behaved Teams Are…
…not necessarily all that successful.
The St. Louis Rams are tied with the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals for fewest NFL player arrests by team. St. Louis last won a Super Bowl for the 1999 season, and the Rams haven’t made the playoffs since 2004. Houston joined the NFL as an expansion team in 2002, and the Texans have never played in a Super Bowl. Arizona has appeared in a single Super bowl since 2000.
The most successful franchise to be in the lowest tier of NFL player arrests per team is the New York Giants (14). The Giants have won three NFC Championships since 2000. Two of those seasons ended in Big Blue winning Super Bowl titles.
8. DUI is the NFL’s Biggest Problem
Regardless of steps taken by teams and the league to deal with this issue, NFL players driving while under the influence remains a serious problem. Players have faced DUI charges on 202 occasions since 2000. That is more than double for any offense that is mentioned in the NY Times article.
Players attend rookie seminars and team meetings that are meant to instruct them on how to avoid issues such as DUI charges. They are taught that teams and cities provide car-and-driver services. Companies such as Uber have made it even easier for athletes to get from one place to another without having to operate vehicles.
A NFL player who drives while under the influence isn’t just breaking the law. He is failing an IQ test.
7. 249 Violence-Related Arrests Have Been Recorded Since 2000
Football is a hard-hitting sport, especially when played at the professional level. The numbers would suggest that some NFL players have trouble “turning it off” when they aren’t on the field.
NFL players have faced assault and battery charges 88 times over the past 14 years. There have been 85 domestic violence incidents involving NFL players since 2000. Add in 38 gun-related charges, 21 burglary/theft arrests, 10 sexual assault cases and 7 murder/manslaughter/attempted murder incidents, and you have 249 total arrests on the charges mentioned in this section.
6. New York Clubs Are Surprisingly Well-Behaved
Logic would suggest that the New York Giants and New York Jets combined would be well above the league average for NFL player arrests. That isn’t a comment on either of those organizations. There simply happen to be two teams that share MetLife Stadium, and thus over 100 active NFL players live in the NYC/NJ region.
The Jets and Giants each have had 14 player arrests since 2000. That combined 28 arrests is only six above the league average for NFL clubs. The incident involving former Giants and Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shooting himself in the leg while at a night club in 2008 made national news and it landed Burress in jail, but the numbers show that was more of a one-off than it was an indication that New York football players don’t behave themselves.
5. Roger Goodell is on Pace for the Lowest Number of League Arrests Since 2000
Roger Goodell, who is facing scrutiny for how he dealt with Ray Rice following that player’s domestic violence incident, was installed as NFL commissioner in 2006. That same year was the peak for NFL arrests over the past 14 years. Things didn’t get much better in 2007 and 2008, and the numbers show that Goodell has not done enough to keep his house in order.
Not so fast, though. The NFL is on pace to have 28 total player arrests for 2014. That would be the lowest of any year from 2000-2014. The current low is 36 NFL player arrests in 2004.
4. “Bad Boy” Oakland Raiders Have a Lower-Than-Average Number of Arrests
The Raiders have a reputation for being arguably the most out-of-control team in the NFL. Oakland and also those that make up the team’s fan base are the “bad boys” of the league. It’s often joked by casual fans and sports talk radio personalities that an NFL player who gets in trouble with the law will eventually land on the Raiders.
Don’t look now, but the Raiders fall below the league average for NFL player arrests per team. Oakland players have been arrested 19 times, three below what has been the league average since 2000. Only 13 of the 32 franchises in the NFL have been responsible for fewer player arrests.
3. The Nefarious Baltimore Ravens Are in the Middle of the Pack
The Ravens are averaging one player being involved in a serious legal matter per decade. Star linebacker and future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis faced murder charges in 2000 (those charges were eventually dropped in exchange for Lewis cooperating with investigators). What those within the front office of the Ravens may or may not have known about the Ray Rice incident since February 2014 has some questioning the ethics of those running the club.
Those incidents aside, the Ravens are right in the middle for NFL player arrests since 2000, sitting at the league average of 22. The Seattle Seahawks are tied with the Ravens at 22 arrests. 12 clubs have had more player arrests than have the Ravens and Seahawks.
2. Most NFL Teams Are Below The League Average For Arrests
Even the biggest football fan would have to admit that the NFL has seen brighter days. One team and perhaps the league commissioner are being accused of enabling a player who knocked his wife unconscious with a punch that was caught on film for the whole world to see. It seems as if a week doesn’t pass without a player being cuffed and charged with a crime.
The numbers should remind you that it’s not all bad for the league as a whole. Three teams – Minnesota, Cincinnati and Denver – have been responsible for 127 total player arrests. They are anomalies when compared with the rest of the league, causing the league average of NFL player arrests to be as high as it is.
18 franchises, over half of the teams in the league, have been beneath that average since 2000.
1. The Number of NFL Players Arrested is Lower Than the National Average
713 arrests sounds like a lot. While fans would like to hope that professional athletes would be role models, the fact of the matter is that NFL players are human. They make mistakes.
As pointed out by the NY Times and by other outlets, 2.53 percent of NFL players have scrapes with the law per year. That number is lower than the national average of adult men arrested on a yearly basis.
NFL players are celebrities, and thus their crimes and their falls make for Internet page views, television ratings, and discussion points for radio hosts. Everybody involved with the league – commissioner, owners, general managers, coaches and players – must do better moving forward.
The NFL is still filled with more law-abiding citizens than law breakers, and those contemplating abandoning watching a sport that they enjoy would do well to remember that.