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Could An NFL Lockout Really Cause A Spike In Crime As Ray Lewis Predicted?

Submitted by on June 20, 2011 – 8:52 amNo Comment

Ray Lewis is no stranger to saying—and doing—some pretty crazy things. Throughout his 15-year NFL career, he’s made headlines time and time again for running his mouth. About his team. About his team’s opponents. And about the NFL as a whole.

So we weren’t exactly surprised when he managed to make everyone—NFL aficionados, casual sports fans, and everyone in between—sit up and take notice with a bold prediction in late May: Lewis concluded that if the NFL lockout drags on and results in the NFL season being cancelled, the United States will see a spike in crime as a result.

“If we don’t have a season, watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game,” Lewis told ESPN. “There’s too many people that live through us, people live through us. Yeah, walk in the streets, the way I walk the streets, and I’m not talking about the people you see all the time.”

Lewis didn’t cite any facts when he made his prediction. He didn’t point to any real-life examples to help illustrate his point. He didn’t even bother to explain himself in much detail. But he obviously did leave a lasting impression on at least one group of people—the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s PolitiFact group, who decided to try and definitely prove whether or not Lewis had a real point when he made his prediction. And, as it turns out, he probably doesn’t.

The AJC worked closely with Northeastern’s Sport in Society center recently and found that very little real data exists to prove that an NFL work stoppage could cause an increased frequency in crime. In fact, they found that a similar study had been completed by the Baltimore Sun back in 1982 that took a look at the crime rate in the city of Baltimore during the team’s bye week. It also examined the four weeks right before and right after the NFL season to see how the crime rate fluctuated when football was and wasn’t being played in the city. And while they did find a slight bump in the homicide rate, they found that, for the most part, the crime rate stayed the same and even took a slight dip after the NFL season ended. That indicates that Lewis would be incorrect to assume that there is any correlation between the NFL lockout and the crime rate.

The AJC took things a little bit further, too. They spoke to Northeastern University professor James A. Fox, who examined FBI data from 2006 to 2008 to see how the crime rate was affected nationwide during the week between the championship rounds of the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. The thought was that if the crime rate was going to increase at any time of the year because of a lack of football, it’d happen during that week. And he found that no increase in crime existed. “I took the Ray Lewis challenge,” he told the AJC, “and I don’t see any evidence of [a crime increase].”

But, is that really going to hold up in the case of an NFL lockout? Will it play out the same way over five months as opposed to a week or two? The truth is that no one knows. On the one hand, the NFL serves as a deterrent from crime for at least one day every week during the NFL season. On the other, there really is no statistical data to show that, without the NFL, the crime rate will suddenly jump substantially. Will there be isolated crime cases tied to the NFL lockout? Possibly. But the likelihood of it causing a widespread outbreak of crime is low. Very, very low.

We sincerely hope we don’t have to find out whether or not the prediction Ray Lewis made is right. We hope the NFL can work out its’ labor issue—soon! And we hope the 2011 NFL season starts on time in September. But if the lockout does continue and the season gets postponed or even cancelled altogether, we hope Ray Lewis was just talking crazy when he made his prediction.

Otherwise, we could be in for a very long fall and winter.

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