Is New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a racist? In a recent interview with Huffington Post, she said, “All of the fans, young boys and girls watching this, are watching the NFL say it’s okay to beat your wife. It’s unacceptable…. It’s not just about Roger Goodell and this one player. There are hundreds of players who are beating their wives, committing assault, committing rape across all sports, and we have to hold them all accountable.”
Really? Hundreds? How does she know this? She makes it sound as if wife-beating and violence are epidemic in the National Football League. But is this really true?
No, according to studies on the rate of criminality in the NFL, the league does not have a “violence against women problem,” or, as the article at RedState says, “At least not one that is worse than the public in general:
As Jim Picht of Communities Digital News shows us, the incidence of domestic violence by NFL players is actually around half that of the same age group in the general United States population. He cites two different studies that show similar results…one done in 1999 by Alfred Blumstein & Jeff Benedict, and another published back in July by Benjamin Morris at fivethirtyeight.com.
Blumstein and Benedict found that of the 342 black players in their sample, 97 of them, or 28 percent, had an arrest for one of these crimes. There were 77 whites in the sample; seven of them, or 9 percent, had an arrest.
Those numbers appear high until we compare them with arrest numbers for the general population. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports provided the arrest data. For the general population, the arrest rate for assault for black men was 6,990 per 100,000, and for whites, 2,209.
The corresponding rate for NFL players, black and white, was less than half the rate for the general population.
More recently, USA Today published its USA Today NFL Arrests Database, which goes from 2000, just after the Blumstein-Benedict study, to today. Benjamin Morris at FiveThirtyEight’s DataLab used these data with the Bureau of Crime Statistics’ Arrest Data Analysis Tool to compare arrest rates for NFL players and the general population.
Morris looked only at the 25-30 age group, which most closely reflects the age of NFL players. What he found was that, again, NFL players have arrest rates far below the general population. Their arrest rates for domestic violence are half the rate of the general public, just as Blumstein and Benedict found. In addition, Morris found that NFL arrest rates for DUI were about one-fourth the general rate; for non-domestic assault, about one-sixth; for sex offenses, about one-half; and for non-violent gun-related offenses, about one-half.
Overall, arrest rates in the NFL are only 13 percent those for the general public among men aged 25 to 30.
If the facts don’t back up what feminists like Gillibrand are saying, why do they assume that “hundreds of players are beating women and committing assault”? Could it have anything to do with the fact that 67 percent of NFL players are black? Are they drawing that conclusion based on the fact that black youths, who make up 16 percent of the youth population, account for 52 percent of juvenile violent crime arrests? Or that in a city like New York, 83 percent of all gun assailants are black even though they make up only 24 percent of the population?
Is Gillibrand assuming that because a majority of NFL players are black they must be criminals?
While there are men who commit crimes in the NFL, the league is not a cauldron of misogynist violence. In fact, the NFL does a lot of good. Just look at players, such as Matt Overton of the Indianapolis Colts, who has helped kids with cancer.
Or Carolina Panthers player Greg Olsen, who turned a personal trial into public charity. In 2012, one of his twins was diagnosed with a serious heart defect. The Panthers’s owner, Jerry Richardson, helped the Olsen family every step of the way, providing his private plane and traveling with them to Boston to make sure the family received the best medical care after the diagnosis. Olsen’s son survived, and they named him Trent Jerry after Richardson.
Now, Olsen and his wife added a new arm to a previous foundation (Receptions for Research) they had started in honor of Olsen’s mom, who survived breast cancer. Its HEARTest Yard provides resources for families with single-ventricle babies.
“This is our platform,” Olsen’s wife said. “This is our way to help these families and help these babies.”
The NFL itself has given hundreds of millions of dollars to charities—something you don’t hear feminists talking about as they malign a league that has given more than 3 million individuals opportunities they wouldn’t have had without the NFL’s generosity and support.
While I don’t think Gillibrand and other feminists are intentionally being racist or sexist or football-phobic with such rhetoric, they need to tone it down and put league violence in perspective. No one supports wife beating or child abuse. Men who commit such crimes need to be held to account—and they will be. But these players need to be judged in a court of law and not in the court of public opinion—especially when that opinion is prejudiced, out of balance, and based on statistical errors.