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You Know How You Associate Certain NFL Teams with Criminal Behavior? You're Wrong.

New England Patriots Player Aaron Hernandez Arrested For Murder Boston Globe

Last Wednesday, after the news broke that Aaron Hernandez had been cut from the Patriots, Extra Mustard counted all the resulting "Now Hernandez can sign with Team A"-type tweets to determine which franchises fans most closely associate with criminals. Turns out we weren't the only ones interested in examining the lawless side of the NFL, as a Redditor from Germany put together a far more credible visual survey by consulting the impressive U-T San Diego NFL Arrests Database.

So how did perception compare with cold, hard facts?


Twitter criminologists

The number of tweets, in the two hours following news of Hernandez's release, that contained a joke along the lines of "Now [a given team] can sign Hernandez".

graph600 Sean McAlevey/SI


Actual Data

Small team icons, I know. (Bigger picture here.)

ChrisTroy/Reddit

If you can believe it, aside from the obvious frontrunner, the Twitter set was colossally off-base vis-a-vis the accuracy of their finely-crafted bon mots. Specifically:

  • Though the Bengals had the honor of scoring first in both tweets and actual arrests, Twitter users completely whiffed on their next six picks, effectively enabling troublemaking teams like the Vikings, Broncos, and Titans to skate.
  • The Love Boat scandal resulted in charges for four Vikings players—Daunte Culpepper, Bryant McKinnie, Fred Smoot, and Moe Williams—and is therefore the source of 10% of the team's arrests.
  • Anecdotally, it does sorta feel like the Cowboys, which have 15, should be higher. Perhaps Jerry Jones' method of employing bodyguards for troubled players like Dez Bryant and Pacman Jones (though Jones famously fought one of his) actually works.
  • Franchises like the Jets and the Eagles, meanwhile, ranked in the bottom five of actual arrest totals and were unfairly maligned. Those teams are beacons of righteousness.
  • Ray Lewis, and the perceived parallels of his case to Hernandez's, almost certainly inspired all the Ravens "jokes" singlehandedly.

All that said, it's important to note that the Arrests Database itself isn't completely accurate. As the U-T explains:

These are arrests and citations involving NFL players since 2000 that were more serious than speeding tickets. U-T San Diego reviewed hundreds of news reports and public records in compiling it. The list cannot be considered comprehensive in part because some incidents may not have been reported and some public records proved to be elusive.

But it's still more precise than having an intern count tweets, so we'll defer to them.

(You can see more graphs of the data here.)
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