The would-be scandal of alleged widespread domestic abuse in the National Football League hit its high water mark this week. It began receding when Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh, armed with empirical data, pushed back and demonstrated that it is yet another bogus issue pushed by agenda-driven media.
Both conservative talkers cited an excellent RedState post by the diarist Bill S., titled "No, the NFL is Not a Hotbed of Wife and Child Beaters." After stating he is not a football fan, Bill S. wrote that "conventional wisdom" maligns the NFL as "full of criminals ... wife beaters, sexual abusers, murderers, rapists, etc. And the leftists are going to remind us of this every time some sort of offensive act occurs. But is this true? The truth of the matter is that the rate of criminality in the NFL is lower than that of the general public."
The RedState post linked to one written by Jim Picht at Communities Digitial News in which Picht cited two studies comparing crimes rates among NFL players and the general public. The first study was done in 1999 by Alfred Blumstein and Jeff Benedict, the second study was published this past July by Benjamin Morris at fivethirtyeight.com. Despite the 14-year difference between the two sets of research, the results were comparable.
Of the 342 black players in the Blumstein and Benedict sample, 97 of them (28 percent) had been arrested at least once on charges of assault (non-domestic), domestic violence, rape, kidnapping, homicide, DUI, drugs and property offenses. Of the 77 white players in the sample, seven (9 percent) had faced arrest on these charges.
"Those numbers appear high until we compare them with arrest numbers for the general population," Picht writes. "The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports provided the arrest data. For the general population, the arrest rate for assault for black men was 6,990 per 100,000, and for whites, 2,209. The corresponding rate for NFL players, black and white, was less than half the rate for the general population." (emphasis added)
Benjamin Morris, in his analysis at fivethirtyeight.com, used USA Today's recently published NFL Arrests Database (for the timeframe 2000-2014) and the Bureau of Crime Statistics' Arrest Data Analysis Tool to compare arrest rates for pro football players and the public as a whole. Morris narrowed his analysis to men age 25 to 30 to reflect the average age of NFL players.
What Morris found earlier this year mirrored what Blumstein and Benedict saw back in 1999. Arrests of NFL players on domestic violence charges were half those of the general public. "In addition, Morris found that NFL arrest rates for DUI were about one-fourth the general rate," Picht wrote, "for non-domestic assault, about one-sixth; for sex offenses, about one-half; and for non-violent gun-related offenses, about one half. Overall, arrest rates in the NFL are only 13 percent those for the general public among men aged 25 to 30." (emphasis added)
Citing these statistics, an exasperated Levin told his listeners (audio at The Right Scoop) that "the facts speak for themselves. The NFL is not a hotbed of criminals, wife beaters, child abusers and rapists. Yes, each time one of these incidents happens it's deplorable. But to single out the NFL and its players as an institution that must be targeted for punitive actions is just plain wrong. I have no special brief for the NFL -- I have a special brief for the truth! And just as the radical left has tried to destroy the military, now they're trying to destroy the NFL."
Limbaugh was similarly indignant at the NFL's politically-correct critics, lashing out that the league is being told "it's dirty and filthy and the commissioner is incompetent and has got to get thrown out and these players need to get thrown out and this league needs to straighten up, or we're going to do something about the NFL. ... the truth probably is that for most of the NFL players, the NFL is the first formal discipline they're ever subjected to. (Audio)
"From the moment they try out for a team," Limbaugh pointed out, "either by virtue of being drafted or signed as a free agent, they have to comport to specific behaviors handed down by the coaching staff to even have a prayer. They have to show up on time. They have to be respectful of authority. They have to follow directions. They have to be where they're supposed to be, on time, that's one of the biggies. They have to be able to memorize the playbook. They have to be able to do anything when called on to do it or they get cut! And their dream is taken away from them."
Limbaugh has been a keen observer of pro football for years and worked briefly as a commentator at ESPN in 2003 until he resigned after an uproar over his claim that the media wanted to see a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles succeed because he was black. Limbaugh also worked as director of promotions for the Kansas City Royals baseball team in the early 1980s.
"In many cases, the NFL is the first formal exposure to real discipline a lot of young men who come to it have ever had," Limbaugh said. "The NFL does plenty of pre-season seminars for rookies to tell them what they're going to face, how to manage their money, how to deal with fame. Don't know how successful it is, you'd look at weeks like this and say, not very successful. But they try, they do it. But they do not have autocratic control. They're always going to be subservient to the legal system."
"Now I'm not saying this to let them off the hook. What happens, as usual there is a political agenda driving all this," Limbaugh said. "All it took was the Ray Rice incident and every element of this agenda got in gear and was off to the races. And then here came the Adrian Peterson story and that just added fuel to the fire. Now where is the corresponding outrage and attempt to remedy or fix all of these kinds of behaviors in the general population? We don't see it, do we? And in fact, whenever anybody suggests it, they are told to shut up and mind their own business, that you don't understand where these kids have come from and therefore you have no business in either judging them or advising them on how to shape up. But when they get to the NFL, there are certain things they have to do if they want to make the team."
"Now, I don't want to be misunderstood when I say that this may be the first exposure to formal discipline," Limbaugh added. "I mean that as a positive. I know, some of you are, well, really, discipline? How come so many of them are beating their wives?! That's not the -- the discipline at the facility when the team has control of them as employees. Very rarely do you see these guys engaging in this kind of aberrant behavior at the team facility. ... You do see it during games and the NFL for years has been worried about it and has been trying, that's why so many more penalty flags are being thrown, folks. They're trying to keep control of the game. They know where their players come from. They know the cultural circumstances. ... I'm convinced the league is doing everything they can within the bounds of political correctness and not making themselves targets of racism, bigotry, what have you. It's a business to them. They've got to make sure the product is as, well, the best it can be, number one, in terms of athletic ability and so forth. But they've got to make sure that sponsors are going to want to be willing to stay associated with it and so forth, and that people are going to slip through the cracks as is happening here in this particular season, but look at the disproportionate amount of rage and anger directed at the NFL."
Wholly in character for Limbaugh to utter the awkward truth that it isn't NFL culture causing its players to become scofflaws, it's the culture they came from before joining the NFL.