With the NFL draft underway, is there a reason for teams to dismiss players with criminal records from consideration? A background check would seem to be a predictor of future problems that could end careers prematurely and cost teams a lot of money.
An Economics thesis at Hamilton College (Weir, Kendall and Wu, Stephen, Criminal Records and the Labor Market for Professional Athletes: The Case of the National Football League (May 15, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2060317
), published last year might shed some light on the case of the troubled athlete.
The authors looked at three factors affected by 1. criminal charges, and 2. collegiate team suspensions: What did these factors have to do with a pro player's draft position, his games played per season, and his performance stats.
Long, involved story made short, it seems that a criminal record may have a considerable effect on draft position - usually knocking a draftee down 16 spots in the draft, a team suspension is worse, knocking the candidate down 22 spots. Oddly enough, that's pretty much the end of the story. While criminal charges may make a player less valuable in the draft, the performance figures and games played are nearer equal - with troubled players being off maybe a couple of percentage points. Generally we can say that team suspensions are worse than criminal charges. Who knew?
I suppose team suspensions are indicative of troubles on the field that will carry over into the pro ranks. Legal problems off the field may cost the team in terms of image and attorney's fees, but it doesn't seem to seriously affect performance on the field. I would have thought that ending up as a lower draft pick alone might have career consequences, but evidently not. Still, I wonder why some of the bad boys are signed to big contracts - particularly if they've received disciplinary action while on their college team. It appears that a messy criminal record is not that big of a concern . . . but if you're a troublemaker, you could find yourself a permanent resident of the trading block.