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Which NFL Teams Come to Mind When People Think About Criminals?

Heinz Kluetmeier / Sports Illustrated Heinz Kluetmeier / Sports Illustrated

At 10:20am Wednesday morning, the Patriots established the sports talking point of the day by succinctly breaking the news that alleged murderer Aaron Hernandez was no longer a teammate of Tim Tebow (and the rest of the New England Patriots):

Predictably, Twitter users came out en masse and did what Twitter users do whenever news breaks, and also all other times: Made bad jokes. In this case, the quips were about which NFL teams were now going to sign the free agent / accused murderer. They looked something like this:

When people weren't even really trying, the tweets looked like this:

The volume of tweets all saying the same thing was staggering, but creativity's death was not in vain. By searching Twitter for "Aaron Hernandez + [a variety of team names]" and then counting all the tweets, we were able to get a sense of which NFL teams most readily spring to the minds of fans when murderers and criminals are discussed.

This is a loose approximation, as counting tweets and doing the necessary filtering (eliminating RTs, deciding if people were making a joke or were just dummies) was a tedious, mind-numbing job. Nevertheless, here's how often teams appeared as the butt of Aaron Hernandez jokes during the first two hours after the news broke that he had been released (roughly 10:20am-12:20pm):

graph600

No surprises here. The Bengals are still struggling to shed a reputation earned during a truly remarkable run of ne'er-doing-well, the Raiders are the Raiders, and the Lions may have benefitted, if you will, from Titus Young's recent criminal efforts. After that you get into a somewhat predictable mix of teams who endured a few semi-recent incidents and / or the career of Ray Lewis.

So was this a case of originality taking the day off (as it so often does on Twitter), or were we witnesses to rampant joke theft? There's no way of knowing—though if it was the latter, the Bengals will gladly create some roster spots for the thieves.

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