When going through the arrest numbers for the NFL yesterday in comparing the Minnesota Vikings to the Cincinnati Bengals, something struck me. There seemed to be a tendency for teams from larger cities to have lower arrest totals. Minnesota and Cincinnati, both in the Midwest, led the way, with Denver coming in third. Both teams from New York ranked at the bottom of the list.
So I checked it. The correlation between metro area population size and number of arrests since 2000 is -0.39, which means that there is some tendency for the teams from smaller markets to have more arrests. To illustrate that another way, here are the average arrest totals since 2000, based on metropolitan area population size:
- Top ten markets (New York, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Bay Area): 14.2 arrests per team
- Middle ten markets (Detroit, Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh): 20.1 arrests per team
- Bottom ten markets (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Nashville, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Buffalo, Green Bay): 23.2 arrests per team
We are still dealing with a very small number of arrests per team over more than a decade period, so it may be random, but the pattern sure appears that players are less likely to be arrested if they play on teams in larger metro areas. What about by region? Some of this could also be related to population size, since the largest cities are more concentrated in the Northeast. I divided teams into five regions, the Northeast (Buffalo and the teams on the East Coast from Boston to Washington, D.C.), the North (Indianapolis across to Pittsburgh, the rust belt), the Midwest (Chicago and St. Louis to Denver, Minneapolis south to Texas), the Southeast (SEC and ACC country), and the Pacific Coast teams. Here were the arrest averages by region.
Not all arrests occur in the home metro area, though, as players get arrested when they return to their home towns during the offseason. I went through the arrest details for the four large market Northeast teams (Philadelphia, the Jets, the Giants, and New England) and compared them to smaller market teams in the Midwest (Kansas City, Minnesota, Green Bay and St. Louis).
For in-region arrests, the Midwest teams were 3x more likely to have players arrested in the home market for both alcohol related offenses (DUI, public intoxication, etc.) and non-weapon assault offenses, which could also be alcohol related but involved an assault charge (bar fights and confrontations, simple assaults, domestic violence).
The Northeastern teams had more gun related offenses, and drug offenses. For things I classified as “other”, the Northeastern teams may have had fewer, but they were more serious: Manslaughter, stolen vehicle, and 3 animal neglect/abuse cases. The Midwestern “others” included things like the “Party Boat”, solicitation of prostitution, false ID, Randy Moss versus parking lady, and yes, one case of wearing one’s pants too low.
Arrests are probably not a perfect proxy for character, especially when there are differences that exist based on region and size of market, unless we think that players on large market teams drink less or go out in public less. It may also have something to do with where the player is located, access to public transportation, and interactions with the local communities. That’s not to say that some teams may have better or worse characters once we account for these things, only that the next Minnesota or Cincinnati–that is, the team most known as the poster boy for arrests–is more likely to come from Jacksonville or Kansas City or Nashville than from New York or Boston.
[photo via US Presswire]