Study: NFL teams with more women in front office have fewer players arrested

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — An employee getting arrested can be an embarrassing situation for any company. When you’re one of 32 teams in the National Football League, it can be a public relations disaster. So how do NFL executives keep their players on the field and out of trouble? A team from Syracuse University contends hiring more women keeps organizations on their best behavior.

Researchers find NFL teams which employ more female executives see a significant drop in the number of player arrests. Franchises that have a “critical mass” of women in the front office (two or more) have a 21-percent decrease in incidents.

“Our research suggests that firms searching for preventive and remedial solutions to misconduct should consider a basic structural solution to this problem: ensuring that there is a critical mass of women on the top management team,” Sport Management Prof. Mary Graham says in a university release.

“Our findings also have implications for organizations beyond those employing professional sport players, particularly visible organizations with high-profile employees, such as media and entertainment companies; and public-facing entities such as courts, schools, and government entities,” adds Bhavneet Walia, an assistant professor of public health.

A winning formula for the NFL?

Overall, the study authors find the odds of an NFL player getting arrested during any given season are 15.4 percent lower when teams have women in their upper ranks. This accounts for 0.33 fewer incidents between professional athletes and the law each season.

While that number may be small, the repercussions of an arrest can linger for weeks and months during an NFL season. Aside from the negative media attention, a franchise stands to lose that player’s services for even longer than one night. If league officials decide to suspend an athlete for misconduct, a team may see little return from a potentially multi-million-dollar investment.

Although women executives in the NFL seem to have a link to better behavior off the field, researchers say there was no evidence that the presence of minority executives have the same effect. The Syracuse team cautions this may have more to do with the low number of minorities in front office jobs.

The study appears in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

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