Most of us are aware of Ray Lewis' warning last month that if the lockout looms, and there is no football, crime rate will increase.
"Do this research 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 at the time.
In the weeks since, we've joke that, every time an NFL player is cuffed and stuffed, Lewis' doomsday prophecy seems less absurd. Since Lewis' May 22 comments, Raheem Brock and Javarris James have been arrested, and Kenny Britt has had several run-ins with authorities.
But is this out of the ordinary? It seems that way, probably because there's not much else going on in the NFL, between the lockout and June historically being the slowest month on the league calendar. Plus, this phenomenon could be nothing more than selective perception, which is a fancy way of explaining how expectations affect perceptions. Because Lewis' warning was at the front of our minds, we noticed arrests when we might not otherwise pay attention to them.
Well, PolitiFact.com took Lewis up on his "do the research" offer. They looked at the 1982 NFL work stoppage, when a 57-day labor dispute led to the 16-game schedule being reduced to nine games.
The nation’s violent crime rate in 1982 was slightly lower than it was the year before the work stoppage, according to FBI crime data. The violent crime rate dropped more significantly the following year, the data show.PolitiFact.com also cited a recent Baltimore Sun study that looked at crime in 1982 and found an increase during the strike in only one category: homicides. (Note: The Sun stressed that the study was unscientific.) Other findings:
Northeastern’s Sport in Society center examined Lewis’ claim after a call from us and also focused on the 1982 NFL work stoppage. It, too, reached a similar conclusion.
"There is very little evidence supporting Lewis’ claim that crime will increase the longer the work stoppage lasts," the center told us.
- The newspaper’s Crime Beat blog looked at crime data last season when the Ravens had their bye (off) week. The Sun found there was slightly more crime during the bye week.
- There were the same number of crimes in Baltimore the four weeks before the season started as the first four weeks of the season. They also found that there was less crime after the season ended in early January.
Northeastern University criminologist James A. Fox did his own study after hearing Lewis' comments and he also came away unconvinced. "I took the Ray Lewis challenge and I don’t see any evidence of [a crime increase]," he Fox.
Mystery solved … although expect us to keep making "Ray Lewis can predict the future!" jokes every time an NFL player gets arrested. He can talk to animals, after all.
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