Criminal Records and the Labor Market for Professional Athletes: The Case of the National Football League
27 Pages Posted: 16 May 2012
Date Written: May 15, 2012
This is the first paper to formally analyze character discrimination in the specific labor market for professional athletes. We observe all 1,273 players drafted into the National Football League between 2005-2009 to determine what effects character concerns, namely arrest records and team suspensions, have on draft status and performance in the NFL. Prospects that have a history of formal criminal charges or are suspended for team or university violations fall between 16-22 spots in the draft. The impacts of character concerns on performance depend on the nature of the issue. Players that have a history of suspension (non-criminal related) start and play in fewer games per season, but having an encounter with law enforcement does not negatively predict performance. This suggests that having a problem with coaches or fellow players is an indicator of future problems, but having a run in with the law does not adversely affect on the field performance. We also find some evidence that conditional on where players are picked in the draft, teams undervalue those with criminal records and overvalue those with other types of suspensions.
Keywords: labor market, discrimination, sports
JEL Classification: J20, J40, J70
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation