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Do Arrested NFL Stars Take a Pay Cut?

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Research by a West Virginia sports economist is shedding new light on the recent string of domestic violence and abuse scandals involving NFL players. It’s a study that looks at the connection between players’ arrest records and their salaries.

Brad Humphreys is an associate professor of Economics at West Virginia University. Earlier this summer he co-authored a paper titled, “Does Crime pay? The Effect of Off-Field Behavior on Player Salaries in the National Football League.” He looked at NFL players who were arrested between 2000 and 2009 and compared their salaries to players with clean records.

“Those players that were involved in those incidents earn a higher salary than a group of comparison players that weren’t involved in any such incidents,” Humphreys said.

Ten to 14% more in fact. Humphreys admitted it’s only a correlation and not causation. He also admits in some cases the comparison players may not have been of the same caliber as the arrested athletes.  

Humphreys thinks one reason for the apparent correlation between arrest and higher pay, is that the same aggressive qualities that are useful on the field might cause problems off of it.  

West Virginia University Sport and Exercise Psychologoy professor Edward Etzel thinks there could be some truth to that.

“That behavior seems to be a part of the culture, see that in athletics, police, fraternities and things of that nature where some institutional behavior seems to be part of that culture that wouldn’t be, certainly wouldn’t be acceptable in other areas of the culture,” Etzel said.

Study author Brad Humphreys thinks the NFL doesn’t come down hard enough on players who are arrested.

The league’s Senior Vice President for Communications Greg Aiello declined an interview request, but sent a written statement saying, “If an arrest does not lead to charges, there is typically no basis for discipline.”

Humphreys’ research is still in the working paper stage and has not yet been peer reviewed. But given the ongoing NFL scandals involving domestic violence and child abuse allegations, he believes the study is even more relevant now than before. 


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