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Good Question: Are Athletes Arrested More Than Others?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The arrest of a Minnesota Vikings player over the weekend for domestic assault brought the team into the lead of a very dubious category: most arrests of any team in the NFL over the past 11 years. But do professional athletes get arrested more than the rest of us?

Chris Cook’s arrest for felony domestic assault over the weekend, brought the number of Minnesota Vikings players arrested since 2000 up to 36, according to the database created by the San Diego Union-Tribune. Cincinnati follows with 35, Denver has 32 arrests, and Tennesse has 30.

Considering NFL teams are allowed to carry a roster of 53 players, that brings the Vikings average over that time period to about 1 in 15 players ending up arrested.

“These are males trained to be aggressive, they have higher levels of testosterone,” said John Tauer, head coach of the University of St. Thomas basketball team. He is also a professor of social psychology.

“Part of it is thinking, I won’t get caught, there won’t be consequences for this,” he said.

Since 2000, the San Diego Union Tribune has found 573 NFL players arrested for things bigger than speeding. That’s an arrest rate of 1 in every 45 players.

“That certainly seems high, but if you contrast with overall public, you see the picture’s a little more murky,” Tauer said.

Indeed, according to the FBI, the national arrest rate in 2009, for all arrests, is 1 in 23.

So even though you see all of the mug shots of NFL players arrested, the general public gets arrested at a higher rate than pro football players.

“Anytime a NFL player gets arrested, you’re going to hear about that story, you aren’t going to hear about it the other times someone gets arrested,” Tauer said.

When you compare DUI arrests, it’s almost identical. In the NFL, one in 144 is arrested on suspicion of DUI. The national rate is 1 in 135.

According to an infographic on sports crime rates, in 2010, Major League Baseball players were arrested 16 times for major crimes like drug offenses and violent crimes. 34 pro football players were arrested for those offenses, which puts football and baseball at a similar rate of arrest (there are twice as many NFL players than MLB players). The NBA is the smallest league, and with 23 arrests, that puts their arrest rate at the top, at least for 2010.

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