With the most recent criminal activity showering all sports headlines, it brings back to the foreground the typical complaints: “That athletes are all trouble,” “They’re out of control” and that “crime is a serious problem in the NFL.” Already, writers are rehashing stories about Vick, Belcher, Brent, Big Ben, and more. Again, the idea here is that NFL athletes are scurge; they are criminals and they are out of control. Well, yeah, some of them certainly are. Some of us normal folk are pricks too. What of it? Isaac Rauch, of Deadspin, wrote a piece last December that combated this notion of NFL players being especially crime-riddled. It was mainly a response to an ESPN article by Jeffri Chadiha. Chadiha argued that the league was out of control and accused Goodell of not taking a strong enough stance against criminal activity. However, according Rauch’s article, only 2.9% of NFL players (on average) are likely to commit a crime. This is compared to 10.8% of American males between the age of 22-34.
And yet, when a player commits a crime, it is the most talked about story for weeks, years in some cases. Perhaps this is the curse of being in the spotlight? After all, TMZ is a thing. The media are obsessed with the wrongdoings of famous folks. They paint a picture of the NFL as being filled with a bunch of transient, self absorbed drama queens, when, in actuality, this really isn’t the case by and large. It just appears this way because, during the offseason, what do football analysts have to do but to overreact to any crime, minor or major, committed by an athlete? That is not to say that crime doesn’t happen in the NFL. Obviously it does. I’m also not suggesting that we should ignore it and live with it. The fact that anyone gets behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated and kills their friend/teammate is a serious problem. And we should be doing anything and everything we can to prevent this sort of thing, but just don’t treat athletes any differently. Likewise, no one should be texting pictures of their goalpost to athletic trainers, regardless of whether they are an athlete. Honestly, the league has a number of systems in place to assist athletes who seem to have a difficult time adjusting to the lifestyle. There is also a rookie symposium where veterans and professionals come to speak to the newest footballers about what life will be like and to let them know that there is help if they need it. As it happens, the crime rate of NFL athletes has been decreasing since 2006 when it was at it’s peak. 2006 is the year that Goodell took over as Commissioner. So you’ll forgive me if I take these “The NFL is filled with criminals” articles well salted.