Thugs Who Score Goals?

Posted: 2010/11/21 in Crisis Communication, Football
Tags: , , , ,

“Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it” -Henry Thomas Buckle

One of the first times I spoke with Josh Gordon, director of Competition Not Conflict, we had a long conversation about my desired course of work. We exchanged thoughts on ‘athletes in crisis’ and the issue of crime in the NFL came up. Mr. Gordon discussed the loss of credibility of the NFL and its various players thanks to the high rate of crime amongst players of professional football teams. Although this post does not intend to ignore crimes committed by other athletes, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the NFL is overflowing with it.
It’s not an new problem. In my research, I discovered articles dating all the way back to the year 2000; however I am sure there were many incidents before then. One blog in the USA Today discussed Ray Lewis’ arrest for double murder following a Tennessee Titans game. Another well-known story is that of Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg in a New York night club 2008 and starting another crime spree. The stories are endless, it seems. In fact they’re so “dime a dozen” that we’re not even surprised to see them on the front page of the paper.
But how do these issues come up? Excuses range from upbringing to paychecks to everything in between. Maybe it’s a lack of training in how to handle conflict and respond differently in the heat of the moment. Although Competition Not Conflict works primarily with verbal conflict, perhaps they should add an addendum about how to avoid crime.
The San Diego Tribune actually detailed a list of statistics in 2008 regarding 385 NFL-related arrests the police had made since 2000. In their unofficial report, they found that Minnesota had the most arrests at 29, with the lowest being St. Louis at 5 since 2000. The most common charge was drunk driving with 129 of the 385 arrests made having to do with drunk driving. Finally, they compared arrests made in the NFL (1 in 47 players) to that of society at large (1 in 21 players)… Well, that’s good to know.
However, this has created an image problem for the NFL. Following the Ray Lewis incident in 2000, the NFL could do nothing better but say no comment. From a PR angle, not commenting is akin to letting the other guy win. The NFL would have been better served to defend their image and take active steps in either recruiting new, better behaved players or at least telling their viewers that they had a team assembled to manage the problem. As far as punishment goes for these players, many people are upset that the consequences for players who play with the law are not severe enough.
I believe that this problem does not get solved just by punishing the players who commit the crimes. This is a societal problem.
And this brings me back to Peg Brand’s comment about how we live in a society that supports, and even glorifies violence. We ask relatively young men to play a very violent game to then step off the field and be completely well behaved. Training should begin earlier for these players to help smooth these transitions. Players who commit a serious infraction should be kicked off the team. They can be replaced. And for the NFL, image is everything- good or bad.


  1. I agree with you about how image is everything- good or bad. It seems that Americans have put professional athletes on a pedistool, which in a sense allows NFL players to ge away with simple crimes like DUI. With thier god like status NFL palyers have the mind set that they are able to do whatever the please and a jurry of thier peer, common folk, will be less inclined to see thier favorite NFL start miss a season to be behind bars. I think for change to come society need to change.

    From a PR point of view I think the NFL needs to get better crisis management, players need to be aware that everything they say and do are watched. When players are out with weapons or caught drunk driving thier crisis management team need to have quick and better plans.

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