Pat Garofalo’s ‘high arrest rate’ for NBA doesn’t exist

Pat Garofalo, who talked to the media Monday after he apologized for a tweet Sunday, seems to have a mistaken impression of the NBA's arrest rate.
(Glen Stubbe / Associated Press)

Pat Garofalo may want to check the numbers before the Minnesota state representative next weighs in on NBA players running afoul of the law.

To recap: Over the weekend Garofalo tweeted that no one would noticed if 70% of NBA teams folded with the “possible exception of increase in street crime.” He doubled down on the claim in an email to a website covering the NBA when he noted the league’s “high arrest rate.”

Turns out that “high” arrest rate doesn’t exist.

Seven NBA players were arrested in 2013, according to one site that tracks such matters. With a minimum of 450 players in the league (15 players per roster on 30 teams), that means no more than 1.5 percent of the league’s players were arrested in 2013. Throw in free agents and the actual percentage is even lower.


Just four NBA players were arrested or cited in 2012.

By way of comparison, the arrest rate for males ages 22 to 34 was 10.8% over the last decade. That number is imperfect, given the vagaries that income, race and the higher profile of professional athletes can inject into the statistics. But the numbers provide another window into the reality missed by Garofalo’s social media musings.

The point doesn’t change when comparing professional leagues. Fifty-six NFL players were arrested in 2013, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s database. With 1,952 players on rosters during the regular season (53 on each of the 32 teams’ active rosters plus eight on the practice squad), that’s a floor of 1,952 players. The arrest rate of 2.9 percent is lower when the season-long roster shuffling is considered.

“Thus, even though our initial assessment was that the NFL rates looked very high,” concluded a 1999 study of the issue in Chance magazine, “we find them well below the rates for the general population.”

The same is true of the NBA.


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Twitter: @nathanfenno