Should The NFL Be Worried About The Increase In Player Arrests?

Posted on June 27, 2013 | in Football, Sports | by
aaron hernandez new england patriots arrested

Aaron Hernandez is one of 28 NFL players who have been arrested since the Super Bowl in February – is this a blip or an indicator of a growing problem?

Earlier this month I gave two presentations – one was an overview of Lean to a group of call center managers, and the other a deep dive into identifying proper metrics to define operational success (categorized by safety, quality, delivery, cost, etc.).  The metrics presentation was about teaching managers how using the right metrics can be indicators of necessary action so that problems can be addressed right away while bad metrics can just cause confusion and focus on the wrong opportunities.

The presentation to the call center managers, however, was intriguing. All of them right away said their biggest problem wasn’t safety or quality but actually attendance. They suffer from high turnover and high training costs because they have to administer training over and over to new operators (a perfect example of the Lean waste of employee knowledge). It’s not a metric that gets a lot of attention at organizations with low turnover, but it’s huge at a call center. Operators and employees that aren’t available to work can’t perform the necessary duties – the process doesn’t get done if no one is there to do it.

Since the end of the Super Bowl in February, there have been 28 arrests to date of NFL players (and now ex-players) according to the San Diego Union-Tribute NFL Arrests Database. With 32 teams and rosters of about 90 players (field players, scout team players) per team, plus players just recently out of work after being cut, there are approximately 3,000 NFL players at any one time (Chris Mortensen of with the math).

28 arrests among 3,000 players – that’s about one arrest for every 100 players, just since the Super Bowl. And some of these players – Aaron Hernandez, Chad Johnson – aren’t just on the periphery of the field or unknowns, they are superstars. Is this a big problem for the NFL? Should the NFL be concerned with these arrests? Is this a higher rate than normal?

NFL arrests totals chart

These are the per-year NFL player arrest and criminal charge totals, taken from the San Diego Union-Tribune NFL Arrest Database. Each year’s data is from that year’s Super Bowl to the following year’s Super Bowl. 2013’s data is from February’s Super Bowl through today.

NFL arrests super bowl charges san diego union tribune

In an apples-to-apples comparison, these are the NFL player arrests and criminal charges totals for each year, from that year’s Super Bowl through the end of June of each year. 2013’s total of 32 arrests and charges is a very high rate relative to the previous four years.


People that get arrested and can’t do the work they’re employed to do are of little use to a company, just by virtue of the fact that they aren’t where the company needs them to physically be. The NFL is no different – the teams pay players to play the game, and if they’re behind bars they can’t play. Absence and attendance is just as important in the NFL as it is to any company. Unavailable employees provide no value.

So it appears that when teams add players to their roster (via free agency, draft, trades) they not only take into consideration their playing abilities but also how much that player can be relied upon to be in place. Things that take players off of the field include legal matters such as this as well as predisposition to injury. Players with “red flags” like injury histories or potential character issues see their draft stock drop because there is a very serious chance that their availability will be compromised.

The NFL is a league that, no matter how the teams paint the picture, tends to draw players with checkered pasts by virtue of it being a violent sport on the field. Successful players that climb the ladder through high school football, college football, and into the pros don’t get there because of high standardized test scores or philanthropic endeavors. They get there because the perform well on the field and excel past the competition. In addition, playing in the NFL brings on a new level of fame that finds players surrounded by individuals with bad intentions.

The NFL knows this, which is why they hold the NFL Rookie Symposium during the offseason every year to help coach rookies and new players about how their lifestyle will change so they are prepared to handle their new fame and fortunes. The league is attempting to educate the young players on preparing for the future and avoiding trouble by bringing in former players who can share their life experiences and advice – sharing of best practices! – so the new players can learn from past mistakes of others instead of repeating them themselves.

The NFL is trying to promote safety and attendance for activities off-the-field – hopefully teams take a harder stance on their tolerance for player activities that detract from them.


EDIT: Two data charts, data taken from San Diego Union-Tribune NFL Arrests Database

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4 Responses to “Should The NFL Be Worried About The Increase In Player Arrests?”

  1. Mark Graban says:

    How can you say it’s an “increase” in arrests without comparing it to past data? How many players are normally arrested in an off season? Can we do a run chart of the past 10 or 20 years? Or are we overreacting to one murder charge (considering the last convicted murder was Rae Carruth, 10 years ago)?

    • Chad Walters says:

      Mark –

      Good call. I added charts with data from the last five years, data coming from the San Diego Union-Tribune NFL Arrests Database. I provided two comparisons – one, a year-over-year 12-month arrest total for each year from the Super Bowl until the next year’s Super Bowl, and another chart with totals from each year’s Super Bowl through the end of June of that year.

      The 2013 number is higher than it has been the last five years (didn’t do a 10 or 20 year look back) and the data is only as good as the media sources from which the data arrives. I think there is a lot of attention on the activities this offseason because of the murder and attempted murder charges, but even Chad Johnson is getting a lot of attention for his activities. An overreaction overall? Maybe, maybe not. Murder is a pretty serious offseason activity.

      I think Chris Mortensen says it right – it shouldn’t really be about the quantity of arrests, but the focus should be on the severity of those offenses. Two murder/attempted murder charges in an offseason is pretty significant.

      • Mark Graban says:

        Mort’s headline was “Should NFL Be Concerned About Recent Arrests?”

        The answer, clearly, should be “yes” (especially when it’s murder – allegedly) regardless of the trends…

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