Roger Goddell
Roger Goddell

Writing in The American Spectator, columnist Jeffrey Lord makes an important point about the recent uproar over an allegedly unusual incidence of domestic abuse among National Football League players: it is based on anecdotes and no scientific facts.

It is true that the video showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then-girlfriend with his fist in a Las Vegas hotel elevator is shocking and documents an inexcusable action on his part. (Note, however, that inexcusable does not mean unforgivable, as his wife’s subsequent statements show.) The same is true of the beating that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson gave to his stepson; despite Peterson’s protestations that he meant the beating to be for the child’s good, which is certainly a plausible claim, his actions clearly went too far, as the photographs show, and committed an unjustified assault.

Some other cases have come to light, involving less-prominent players. Such activities are to be condemned, of course, and they have been, not only by sportswriters and fans but also by the league and the teams by whom the players were employed. Sports writers and opinion leaders such as prominent progressive opinion websites, however, have denounced he reaction of the teams and the league as insufficient. Name-calling has been rampant among these critics, and the baying for NFL commissioner Roger Goddell to be fired has been unrestrained.

Lord summarizes it very well:

Five cases in the NFL have launched this media uproar, accompanied by an abundance of moral posturing. There has been no hesitation to spotlight the players named in those five cases: Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, Jonathan Dwyer of the Arizona Cardinals, and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers.

Not satisfied with simply reporting these five cases, the media has used them to paint the entire NFL as a veritable athletic Evil Empire of domestic abuse. Zeroing in like a laser on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and various team owners or coaches as so many major and minor Darth Vaders.

The second paragraph of that quote is what is relevant to the public and the culture, of course: what looks very much like a concerted effort to suggest that the National Football League and its fans are responsible for incidents of domestic violence by individual NFL players in their off-hours and that NFL players commit an extraordinary amount of domestic violence which is fostered by the indifference of the league and its fans.

Both of those claims and their underlying assumptions, Lord argues, are poppycock: NFL players commit far fewer crimes, per capita, than the overall U.S. adult male population, and the NFL cannot rationally be seen as being responsible for the off-hours activities of its employees than any other industry.

The claims of excessive crime by NFL players are easily refuted, as the statistics show the players are far more law-abiding than their peers across the nation:

As noted here over at Breitbart News where the headline read:


It turns out that the guys in the stands hit their wives a lot more than the guys on the field. . . . After analyzing the statistics, criminologist Alfred Blumstein and sports writer Jeff Benedict informed in the statistics magazine Chance in 1999 that “NFL [crime] rates are less than half the general population rates.” This held for domestic violence. The authors conceded that “even though our initial assessment was that the NFL rates looked very high, we find them well below the rates for the general population.”

Economist Stephen Bronars confirms that with statistics for the decade of 2003-2012:

Over the past decade there have been 489 arrests of NFL players for offenses more serious than speeding (and lesser traffic violations).  These data are based on the San Diego Union Tribune’s arrests database for NFL players that I update with a recent story by Fox Sports.  On average this amounts to one arrest per 35 players per year, or about 1.5 arrests per team per year.  The arrest rate for NFL players has averaged about 2.9% compared to 10.8% for men age 22 to 34 (based on FBI crime data by age for men in 2009).  Commissioner Roger Goodell is not satisfied with an arrest rate that is merely below the average for men in the U.S.  As the graph below indicates arrests of NFL players were increasing until Goodell became commissioner in 2006.  Since then the number of NFL players arrested per year has fallen by about 40%.

That is the same Roger Goddell, of course, for whose hide the media elites are now braying for being “soft on crime.”

In fact, Lord notes, the number of well-known domestic violence incidents committed by NFL players is dwarfed by the number of such actions perpetrated by journalists. Through a simple Google search, Lord identified ten prominent journalists who had been arrested for or convicted of domestic violence in just the past three years:

In the case of the NFL the media likes to insist there is a pattern of abuse, so we’ll focus on the pattern. There’s nothing secret here — no purloined court documents or leaked scoops.

• ESPN: Two ESPN personalities have been arrested for domestic violence: the first in August 2010, the second in February 2011. In May 2011 the charges in the second case were dropped, with an agreement to accept six months of probation.

• CBS: In 2009, the CBS affiliate WJZ in Baltimore saw a longtime reporter arrested and two years later re-arrested in a domestic violence case.

• CBS: In February 2013, CBS New York affiliate WCBS saw its anchor arrested and making local headlines with a threat to kill his wife. He later “completed a 26-week program for those involved in family violence as well undergoing psychological and substance evaluation and treatment,” after which the judge in the case permitted him “to take back his guilty pleas to second-degree threatening and breach of peace charges [were] dropped.

• CBS: Last year, KCTV, the network’s Kansas City affiliate, saw its anchor arrested on a domestic violence charge.

• ABC: The ABC Milwaukee affiliate’s sports director was arrested for domestic violence in 2012. A month afterwards the decision was made by the local prosecutor not to charge him.

• ABC: The Asheville, North Carolina ABC affiliate saw a reporter and his wife arrested last fall and charged with “misdemeanor assault.” Both declined to press charges.

• ABC: The New York WABC outlet found its weatherman caught up in a charge of “misdemeanor assault” last year.

• NBC: A female anchor at NBC’s El Paso affiliate was arrested on a domestic violence charge last year.

• New York Times: Yes, a Times journalist — who also worked for CBS — was arrested for “disorderly conduct” in May 2011 after an argument with his wife “turned physical,” according to the New York Daily News. The Daily News also reported that the same week of his arrest he spoke at — you can’t make it up — a “conference… that benefited victims of domestic violence.”

Lord rightly characterizes this as a double standard among the nation’s media:

Can you imagine the head of ESPN or any of these networks or the owner of the New York Times getting the kinds of questions from a reporter like those dished at Roger Goodell in his press conference the other day? Let’s take just one of those actual questions to Goodell —found here — and turn it into a question for the leaders of media companies named above:

If any of these victims had been someone you love, would you be satisfied with the way the network/paper has handled this crisis, and what would you say to them? 

Yet it doesn’t happen.

This double standard, Lord notes, also applies to wealthy celebrities whose carbon footprint is bigger than those of most mid-sized cities yet are given a free pass because they support draconian environmental laws that impoverish millions of low-income people in the United States and around the world. The reason for the criticism of the NFL, Lord argues, is that the nation’s ruling class dislikes football:

The NFL — like SUVs, religion, the fossil fuels industry, and a long list of products and institutions — is the target of ruling class disdain. But instead of taking on these targets in leftist sights directly, they are approached sideways or at the edges. Cautiously at first, then, when enough steam is picked up, in a full-fledged attack designed to eliminate the offending target once and for all. Thus targeting SUVs begins with sniping at big vehicles on urban streets, then moves to the gas-guzzler theme, then finally to the question of banning them outright because they are responsible for global warming. Getting rid of prayer in school becomes the demand that religious institutions that oppose birth control be forced to violate their faith. Restricting this gun or that leads to a demand for outright gun bans. And so on.

In the case of the NFL the attack is on football itself and has been under way for some time. There is the concussion business. Now the attack on the Washington Redskins, demanding a name change even when polls show huge majorities oppose the change. The not-so-subtle implication is that football is racist. Another strike against the sport.

Lord’s description of the process of destruction through public hate is spot-on, and although he does not say precisely what it is that the nation’s ruling class despises about football, it doesn’t take any imagination to figure that out.

Domestic violence, as Lord stresses, is “a huge problem.” Unfortunately, as Lord notes, the nation’s media seem consistently to designate any particular social ill as a “huge problem” only when the issue can be used to bolster the preferences of the nation’s ruling class. When they or their servants in the press commit crimes, the indignation is nowhere to be found.