NFL Players and their Criminal Histories

NFL Players
By Ben Hartwig
06 March, 2020

In 2019, an average of 16.5 million people watched NFL football games. Sundays during football season are family days for many, and relatives and friends often gather together to enjoy watching their favorite teams compete against one another. The NFL is a powerhouse of an organization, generating millions in TV advertising during games, and offering lucrative endorsement opportunities to its players. Team merchandise, concessions and tourism in areas where teams play are all benefited by the NFL as it drives business opportunities. NFL teams and individual players are regularly involved in giving back through a wide array of fundraising, and charity initiatives. It is no surprise that any scandal that involves the NFL gets a lot of press coverage and raises questions about the integrity of the organization, and whether it does enough to hold its players accountable.

A number of NFL players have run into trouble with the law, with charges ranging from domestic violence to animal abuse. This has raised questions about the NFL’s rules concerning its handling of players that commit crimes. Many spectators feel that the league should do more to hold its players accountable, and some have questioned the NFL’s values.

High Profile Cases Involving NFL Players

Domestic Violence

Ray Rice, a player for the Baltimore Ravens was arrested and charged for assault after a taped encountered in which he assaulted his fiancée, in March 2014. The incident got a lot of media attention, and shined a light onto domestic violence via the graphic video of Rice assaulting his fiance. There was a public backlash which eventually led to an NFL policy change regarding how it handles domestic violence cases in which its players are involved. Rice’s contract was terminated by the Baltimore Ravens in September 2014 and he was also suspended indefinitely by the league. He was however later reinstated after he appealed the decision in federal court. This still did not change his career path as he has not played professionally since before the incident.

Statutory Rape

Laurence Taylor, who played for the Giants from 1981 to 1993 had a long history of cocaine abuse and soliciting prostitutes. Most recently, Taylor was arrested for having sexual contact with a 16-year old prostitute, which resulted in a statutory rape charge.

Animal Abuse / Conspiracy

dog fighting

Michael Vick, who played for the Falcons and then later for the Eagles and the Jets, has been charged and served time for his involvement running a dog fighting ring. He served his sentence and returned to playing in the league.

It is important to note that the above is just a sample – many more criminal charges exist for NFL players. This raises important questions about the NFL, and its handling of players that run into trouble with the law.

Murder

Aaron Hernandez, a player for the New England Patriots was charged and convicted for first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He has since committed suicide.

What % of NFL players have a criminal record?

Based on research conducted in 2017, slightly over 50% of NFL players have some sort of a criminal record. This is based on the number of players with arrest records, not necessarily convictions.

Which NFL Team has the most players with criminal records?

To assess how NFL teams rank in players with criminal records, one must consider the number of total player arrests per team, while a player was employed by the team. The Minnesota Vikings rank #1 in player arrests with a total of 49 arrests of players while they played on the team. The Denver Broncos is a close second with 47 arrests.

Arrests and Convictions among NFL Players

Arrests and Convictions

The number of arrests of NFL players is high – nearly 900. Out of those, there are 50 documented convictions of NFL players, both current and former. In most cases, a conviction is enough to derail an NFL player’s career and many retire after being convicted. In some cases, such as for Michael Vick, there is a second chance to return to the league after completing their sentence.

Can a Felon Play in the NFL?

The NFL has allowed convicted felons to play on teams, and does not have a rule that bars a player from playing in the NFL because of a prior felony conviction. The NFL has imposed suspensions and teams have released players due to troubles with the law, but there is often an opportunity for the player to return to another team after the backlash has died down.

In conclusion, many questions have been raised about the integrity of the NFL, and people remain concerned about its ethics as an organization. There are also questions about the root cause of a high number of violent crimes among the NFL player population. One theory is that due to the contact of the sport, NFL players are at a higher risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which can lead to depression, and violent and erratic behavior. This is an area of active research which will likely provide a lot more valuable insights into the brains of NFL players. Overall, the NFL prioritizes the skills of its players and understands that fans want to watch high performing players on the field, regardless of their criminal history.

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