Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Extra Points: Hernandez's actions shouldn't tarnish NFL

Extra Points: Hernandez's actions shouldn't tarnish NFL - Football Wires -

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - The NFL has been taking its lumps recently because of a spate of arrests since the Super Bowl, headlined, of course, by the first degree murder charges pinned on ex-Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

The current narrative coming from most is that "The Shield" has been tarnished, but that's hyperbole. For every Hernandez, there are dozens of NFL players who spend their free time trying to make society and their communities better places.

Take Minnesota Vikings defensive Jared Allen, a four-time All-Pro who has had his own off-the-field problems. An immature Allen was once arrested for DUI on three separate occasions and suspended by the NFL. His last brush with the law came on Sept. 26, 2006, however.

Since then, Allen has cleaned up his act and turned into one of the NFL's premier pass rushers. Off the field, he's been even more impressive.

These days, Allen is busy teaming up with the Professional Bull Riders in an effort to help his own Homes for Wounded Warriors charity, something the Dallas native started in 2009 to provide handicap-accessible homes and remodels to wounded veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Since 2012, Allen worked with the PBR as the owner of three bulls currently competing on the sport's elite Built Ford Tough Series, and has raised more than $100,000.

"This is a great match," Allen said. "I've attended a few PBR events this year, pulled ropes for a few of the cowboys before their rides and took care of my bulls. It's cool to get back into that world a little bit."

Allen's love for the rodeo stems from his youth while he grew up on a ranch in Morgan Hill, Calif., and he still shows it off virtually every Sunday with his patented calf-roping celebration after his sacks. His deep respect for the military comes form his family ties. Allen's grandfather and younger brother served in the Marines.

"PBR and (my charity) have a natural tie-in; they stand for some of the same principles, God and country," Allen said. "The fact that I can merge my interests to the benefit of both is great."

Allen, who has 117 career sacks, also serves as an advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation which raises funds through his "Sack Diabetes" program, and was among four NFL players sent overseas on a NFL-USO tour to visit with U.S. military troops.

In September 2010, Allen even gave $3,000 to a Downey, Calif., animal shelter's reward fund for information leading to an arrest in connection with a horse being starved and abandoned on a Los Angeles city street.

In today's 24/7 news cycle, which is largely driven by ratings, Allen's kind of philanthropy isn't going to sell, but statistics say it should.

Believe it or not, there really hasn't been a significant spike in NFL player arrests this offseason. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune's exhaustive NFL arrests database, league arrests between the Super Bowl and July 1 are up this year to 27 from 21.

They are also the highest they have been since 2008, when 41 were taken into custody. That said, 27 isn't all that much more than the 25 who were arrested in 2010 or the 23 in 2009. The difference is this year's total is not overwhelming and remains comfortably under the national arrest average by nearly 2 percent, according to FBI numbers.

Among young men between 22 to 34, things look even rosier for the NFL, which has a 3.5 percent arrest rate since 2003 compared to a whopping 9.9 percent national average.

Sometimes the facts get in the way of a good story, though, and news organizations thrilled by the ratings that the Hernandez scandal has generated aren't about to play up numbers that say NFL players as a whole behave better than the rest of society.

That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

"One (arrest) is too many," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told USA TODAY Sports when discussing the issue recently.

Aiello's right.

Most crime is directly attributed to poverty, and NFL players certainly don't have that hurdle to clear. There are no logical explanations for any NFL player to be arrested save for the facts that young people make mistakes on occasion and there are a few bad apples in the world.

High profile legal cases often skew perceptions, but don't blame football for Aaron Hernandez, a bad guy who probably would have went off the rails far sooner without the game. Instead, take comfort in the fact there are far more Jared Allens in the NFL.

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