Football research links on-field, off-field behavior

Professional football players who commit more infractions on the gridiron are more likely to break the law off the field, according to recent research released by the University of Texas at Dallas.

The research, published in the academic journal Deviant Behavior, was the result of a collaboration between UT-Dallas and Florida State University. Researchers compiled penalty statistics from NFL.com and relied on arrest record databases developed by both the San Diego Union-Tribune and USA Today to look at 524 pro players from 2000 to 2014.

Results showed that players earning the most game penalties also averaged 1.5 arrests each.  Players with one arrest averaged 11 penalties and 95 penalty yards, while those with at least two arrests averaged 16 penalties and 133 penalty yards each.

Although the results of the study are intriguing, Dr. Alex Piquero, professor of criminology at UT-Dallas, pointed out that the phenomenon was not limited to professional athletes.

“That’s something we see in other professions as well," he said. "It doesn’t mean one causes the other, but it shows that problem behavior in one sphere is not limited to that sphere.”

Piquero was joined by fellow UT-Dallas faculty member Nicole Leeper Piquero and FSU's Wanda Leal and Dr. Marc Gertz.

“Since our findings revealed a link between workplace behavior and off-duty behavior, it is important for organizations, especially those with a high profile like the NFL, to take seriously their personal conduct policies and to properly screen those they hire for employment, as the actions of any one individual has consequences, both negative and positive, not only for the individual involved but also to the image of the organization,” Leeper Piquero said.

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