No other year in NFL history was quite as busy for law enforcement as 2006. NFL players were arrested or cited at least 71 times for various alleged crimes, including 10 incidents for the Cincinnati Bengals alone and 20 arrests for players suspected of driving drunk.
The problem got so bad that the league was forced to crack down on it after hiring Roger Goodell as the NFL’s new sheriff that August.
But it didn’t quite work. Another surge of criminal cases disrupted the league in 2013 and 2014, prompting it to revamp its strategy.
Database: NFL player arrests since 2000
And now the NFL is learning just how well it’s holding up this time, based on nearly four years of data since its new policies took hold in 2015. Some of the results are striking:
► NFL player arrests and criminal citations have dropped to about 38 per year since then, compared to about 57 per year in the 10 years prior, according to an analysis of the USA TODAY Sports database of more than 900 such incidents involving players since 2000.
► Arrest rates for drunken driving and domestic violence both have fallen in step. DUI arrests are down to about nine per year since January 2015, compared to 15 per year from 2005-2014. Domestic abuse arrests dipped from about seven per year from 2005-2014 to about five per year since 2015.
► And the Bengals have had only four known incidents since then, cooling their bad boy image after a rash of incidents in the previous decade.
“I think we’re a much more enlightened population, and that makes us stronger and better and I think also has an impact on actions,” said Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president for social responsibility. “I think you see the results in actions by incidents going down.”
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