Violence in the NFL

By Joseph Thiry

The National Football League is idolized, followed and admired due to its strategic gameplay, athletic feats and levels of contact and violence on the field. However, do these football players whom are conditioned solely to be athletic specimens, leave their violent attitudes on the field when their job is done? When competing at the highest level to be the strongest, fastest and most agile person on the field, players can’t help delving into the competitive mindset to outcompete rivals or even their own teammates. With the mindset of constant self-improvement along with trying to become the most lethal guy on the field, does this conditioning remain with the individual when he leaves the football field?

Most of us are familiar with football stars such as Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Aaron Hernandez, individuals that have been arrested and charged for crimes related to violence. However, these football stars are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NFL players’ involvement in violent crimes. In fact 15 players have been arrested due to violent crimes against women alone in the past 2 years. These numbers neglect to mention battery, assault and murder in which, from January 1st 2012 to September 17th 2014, 33 NFL players were arrested on violent charges alone. Are these volatile amounts of violence a product the NFL’s environment? Or is this all speculation and coincidence?

Let’s begin by examining the debate of the decade that solely surrounds NFL safety. Is American football too violent? Big hits and football are two peas in a pod. Fans are stimulated and attracted by the smacking of helmets, leveling of players and occasional player confrontation. However, some fans are genuinely concerned for the well-being and safety concerns that have been pointed out by medical reports concerning brain damage and concussion-linked diseases. As the game of football continues to develop, we are beginning to encounter athletes that are becoming bigger, stronger and faster. Athletes that are close to 300 pounds but are running a 40 in 4.6 seconds. These are specimens that have never been seen before.

The bar is constantly being raised for NFL athletic standards and somehow the gap is being filled. When will football be deemed too violent? If the bar is consistently being raised, what will it take for the NFL to rule that football is too violent? Perhaps when 350-pound men are running 40s in 4.2 seconds? The human body is not built for such high impact and viscous collisions. However, the mind is a powerful substance that will work and achieve anything an individual desires, even at the bodies’ expense.

This hyperactive conditioning to be better, stronger and faster must have a psychological effect on players on and off the field. Being habituated to operating with the use of physical intimidation and ferocity in a sport can cause an individual to inherently regress to those innate behavior traits when facing conflict in every day life.  A study done over three years demonstrated that male student athletes make up 3% of the college population. However, they account for 19% of sexual assaults and 35% of domestic assaults on college campuses. The study also demonstrated that athletes commit one in three college sexual assaults. It is possible that these staggering numbers correlate to athletes being a product of their environment in adapting to these violent ways.

However, it can also be argued that athletes are not violent as a result of the sport, but violent due to upbringing or natural disposition that lead these individuals to playing violent sports. That these individuals were violent by their nature and upbringing, football only condoned and facilitated their violent behavior. It is proven that domestic violence is the number one crime committed by athletes.

Although this statistic demonstrates the violent consistency within the NFL, studies demonstrate that the NFL is much less violent in comparison to the general population. The media and public are usually responsible for highlighting and sharing breaking news regarding a player’s crime activity. Perhaps this is the reason that the general public makes the assumption that the NFL is full of criminals.

However, researchers found that the overall arrest rate was significantly lower than those of men ages 20-39 in the general population. In fact twenty and thirty year old men were almost twice as likely as NFL players to be arrested between 2000 and 2013.

Although out of the 14 year study, 6 of the years indicated that NFL players rates of violent crime was significantly above the national average, it still demonstrated the that the NFL has consistently less arrest rates than the general population. This study indicates that NFL players aren’t predisposed to committing crimes in general, but typically crimes that are geared towards violence.

It is extremely difficult to prove and pin point the direct sources of where NFL athletes become violent. Perhaps it is a compilation of both natural, upbringing and environmental factors of football that attribute to the higher rates of violent crimes committed by NFL athletes. Constantly training, competing and flourishing in a testosterone saturated environment in which every individual needs to prove his manhood is a catalyst for clashing heads and confrontation.

However, the rates of violent crimes are significantly lower than the public perception makes them out to be. Emphasis is focused primarily on the bad apples of the NFL, which ruins the reputations for the majority of the NFL players. There is a distinct correlation between NFL players and violent crimes. However, more evidence and research must be done to investigate if this violence is solely linked to being raised playing football in a high paced, competitive hostile environment.

If this was the case, and football really did breed violent criminals, then wouldn’t the majority, if not all of the NFL be committing violent crimes? My insight is that although football may facilitate violent behavior, an individual will commit a violent crime regardless if they are engaged in football or any contact sport for that matter.

Sports do not determine or catalyze people’s actions to commit crimes. As for the assumption in which football causes violent crimes, I believe this argument is simply flawed due to lack of evidence, hundreds of external factors and people’s pure disposition to be a violent person naturally.


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