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Breaking down the NFL’s arrest record

Football is violent. That’s part of the reason we love it. We probably encourage the violence a bit too much, but that is the state of the sport in 2014.

It probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that NFL players seem to take their work home with them. Since 2000, there have been 769 arrests of football players. To be fair, they aren’t all like Aaron Hernandez and Ray Rice.

Some NFL players just park in handicapped spots or get drunk, mess with cops and hide themselves in a pile of mulch. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has to put together a fantastic database on all the NFL arrests since 2000, and I decided to use it to figure out some things about the NFL.

There have been some decent analyses of the NFL arrest data in the last month or so, but I thought I’d put the data in a language that people who play sports and like sports might understand: tables and brackets.

Just to clarify: I’m not making light of these arrest stats, but they’re starting to get to the point where they are ridiculous.

Here’s how each division would look based on the number of arrests on each team:

AFC East
Team Arrests
Miami 30
New England 18
Buffalo 17
NY Jets 15
Total 80
AFC North
Team Arrests
Cincinnati 42
Cleveland 30
Pittsburgh 23
Baltimore 22
Total 117
AFC South
Team Arrests
Tennessee 36
Jacksonville 30
Indianapolis 25
Houston 10
Total 101
AFC West
Team Arrests
Denver 45
Kansas City 30
Chargers 26
Oakland 21
Total 122
NFC East
Team Arrests
Washington 21
Dallas 16
NY Giants 14
Philadelphia 13
Total 64
NFC North
Team Arrests
Minnesota 47
Chicago 29
Detroit 17
Green Bay 17
Total 110
NFC South
Team Arrests
Tampa Bay 35
New Orleans 22
Atlanta 19
Carolina 18
Total 94
NFC West
Team Arrests
Seattle 24
San Francisco 20
Arizona 19
St. Louis 12
Total 75


As you can see, the AFC West takes the cake for most arrests. Those four teams combined for over 122 arrests since 2000. That’s nearly 9 arrests per year.

But who comes out on top (or bottom, really) when these teams go head-to-head? What if they were pitted against each other in a tournament format, a sort of Terri-Bowl, if you will.

I took the team with the most arrests for each division, and the top two remaining teams to fill the wildcard spots. Where there was a tie in arrest numbers, I took the team with the most recent arrest.

The tournament bracket was just head-to-head on total arrests.

So Minnesota is the big loser. 47 arrests in 14 years. That means someone was basically getting arrested every four months since we were all freaking out about Y2K.

Vikings players were arrested 47 times in 14 years.

I’ve been trying to figure out how the arrest rate compares to the general American public, but it’s pretty hard to tell. According to the Census Bureau, there were 308,745,538 people in the US in 2010, and according to the Dept. of Justice, 13,122,110 people were arrested that year. That works out to an arrest rate of about 4.2% for the general American population.

Amazingly, my guess for the NFL arrest rate is actually lower. If you take a 53-man roster for 32 teams (or 31 teams for the two years before the Texans came into existence) and multiply that by 14 years, you get a very conservative guess of 25,334 athletes been in the NFL over the period in question. Divide the 769 arrested by that number, and you get an arrest rate of about 3.03%. Check this out if you want to check my math.

Interestingly, there were 186,378 arrests in Minnesota in 2010, with a population of 5,303,925. That works out as an arrest rate of about 3.5%, less than the US overall, but still more than the NFL’s rate.

While the NFL’s arrest rate is lower, I guess the difference is the average US offender isn’t on TV every Sunday and earning at least $420,000 a year, unless they’re really wealthy and happened to wind up on an episode of COPS, maybe. There’s the sentiment that sports stars are supposed to be role models for America’s youth, but really, they’re a bunch of dudes trying to beat each other for our entertainment. And I guess if there’s more of us getting arrested than them, then can we really complain?

3 thoughts on “Breaking down the NFL’s arrest record”

  1. Gordy says:

    Great article Mike, but Minnesota’s numbers are skewed by the “Love Boat Scandal” ( A lot of Vikings arrests stem from that one night. 17 players involved, 4-5 charged.

    1. Mike Murphy says:

      Thanks for the heads up, G-Man. Still a lot of arrests in general, though!

  2. Annabelle says:

    Thank you for writing an insightful article! I began reading it expecting a higher rate of arrests for NFL players than for the general public but your well-presented data analysis proved me otherwise. Interesting topic to look into, for sure!

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