Trial By Retweet: The NFL & Player Discipline
NFL players find themselves in trouble on an almost regular basis. Just like any other profession. From beggars to bankers to politicians. Nothing has changed about this fact. The only thing that has changed is the NFL's reaction and response.
The sudden knee jerk reaction from the NFL to discipline players, is similar to over counter-steering when your car slips on an icy road in the winter. It results in disaster.
According to a study by U-T San Diego, since 2000, there have been 644 player arrests. (This may not be 100% accurate as some arrest reports are not released to the public). That's an average of 42.9 (call it 43) arrests per year. Each season there are 1,696 active roster players. That means 2.56% of ACTIVE NFL players are arrested each year.
You're probaby thinking "WOW that's a lot!" While that opinion is for each person to make, this next peice of data may suprise you. According to the Federal Bureau Of Investigation, 13.1 million Americans were arrested in 2014. thats 4.1% of the 318.9 million people living in the country according to the United States Census Bureau. So compared to the average American population, the NFL players are pretty well behaved.
One thing to remember about this data is that it is for ARRESTS. Not convictions. Not even charges filed. The difference is, the average citizen is innocent until proven guilty and convicted by a jury of their peers. In the NFL it is now a trial by media, with Roger Goodell as judge, jury and executioner. Even when a player is not convicted they must still fight just to be able to do their job and make a living.
With the popularity of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, it has become commonplace for the faceless masses to make their voices heard. Regardless of how misinformed or misplaced those opinions are. Between 1947 and 2006 the NFL handed down a grand total of 15 player suspensions. (according to data compiled from ESPN, The NY Times, LA Times, Associated Press, and the NFL) Between 2007-2015 that number jumped to 56. Almost four times the number of suspensions in a time frame almost four times as short. Did football players coincidently start getting in trouble at the same time social media was taking off? No. The only thing that changed was he presence of a virtual lynch mob, dead set on taking down anyone they didn't like, or played for a team that wasn't theirs.
In June 2014 Carolina Panthers defensive end, Greg Hardy was accused of assualting his partner Nicole Holder in his apartment. Hardy was instantly placed on the exempt list and not allowed to play. By Feburary 2015 the charges were dropped. From a legal perspective he did nothing wrong. There was no evidence to prove he hit anyone. Yet in March, Dallas Mayor, mike Rawlins said that "as a Cowboys fan, this (Hardy's signing) was a shot in the gut". So Hardy was publicly condemned by a public official over an accusation that was never more than just that. An accusation.
As of now former Ravens star running back, Ray Rice, is still unable to find a spot in the NFL. This is despite having the talent and teams having a need. Rice was cut by the Ravens in September 2014 the same day a videotape of him striking his now-wife Janay Rice on an elevator. This was after he was originally given a 2 game suspension. Rice admitted he made a mistake. He never lied about it. He wasn't crucified until the tape came out. A drunken dispute between him and his partner where they assaulted each other. The man's wife can forgive him. Apparently the Twitter mob can't, so he is out of a job.
The point to be made here is that everyone makes mistakes. The difference is when you're in the spotlight, you don't get the luxury of due legal process. If a jury of social media finds you guilty, you may find yourself out of a job.