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A Brief History of Dallas Cowboys Arrests

A Brief History of Dallas Cowboys Arrests

No NFL team has, through its history, been without players finding themselves in trouble with law enforcement.   Many Americans want to believe that the leading NFL franchise with the most arrests is a team they love to hate.  

No, we aren’t speaking about the Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.  Believe it or not, the hated Raiders don’t make the list of the five top franchises with the most criminal arrests.   The other most hated, and most beloved team nationwide?  The Dallas Cowboys.

America's team is actually quite well-behaved

Despite being heavily scrutinized and in the national public eye, the Cowboys, who fondly refer to themselves as “America’s Team”, have a reasonably solid track record historically for active rostered players not being charged with crimes.

While they Cowboys find themselves as a target for the ire of football fans nationwide, and their players have been in the news for criminal arrests and charges in recent years, the Cowboys don’t even make the top of the list of the most criminally-charged teams.  They have only had 27 criminal arrests of rostered players in their history.  Of course, you may be wondering–which teams make the top of the list?   Here they are:

  1. Minnesota Vikings (55 arrests)
  2. Denver Broncos (54 arrests)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (50 arrests)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs  (40 arrests)
  5. Cleveland Browns (39 arrests)

History of Dallas Cowboys Arrests

While the Cowboys overall may not frequently find themselves in need of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, there have been several Dallas Cowboys players who have found themselves facing a heap of legal issues over the years.  Several members of the Dallas Cowboys have faced serious criminal allegations over the last 40 years, including drug possession, rape, and even manslaughter.

The following informational guide explores a history of legal issues that have surrounded some of the Cowboy players in previous years, taken in chronological order.

1. Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson (1983)

Our list begins with the famous Thomas “Hollywood: Henderson. Henderson, a terrific football player, attended Langston University before becoming a starting linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys.

During his playing years, Thomas Henderson found himself in legal trouble on numerous occasions.  Henderson was charged with several crimes during his playing years due to an addiction to crack cocaine.

Henderson was arrested in November of 1983 for allegedly exchanging cocaine for sex with two minor teenagers. As any criminal lawyer can advise you, these type of charges can involve sex crimes, drug crimes, and crimes involving a minor.

A success story, Thomas Henderson has since cleaned up his act. He has been sober for over 3 decades and spends time touring the country as a motivational speaker.  A little known bit of trivia is that Mr. Henderson has also won the lottery on two occasions, once in the amount of 28 million dollars.

2. Larry Bethea (1985)

Larry Bethea was a defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys. He also had a short-lived career in the USFL with the Michigan Panthers, Houston Gamblers and Oakland Invaders.  He had been a star college football player at Michigan State before he began his pro career.

Larry Bethea’s life was also plagued by drug use and abuse.  Bethea was reported to have stolen over $64,000 from his mother’s life savings. TFhe following year, Bethea was convicted on criminal charges for domestic violence and theft. 

Tragically, in 1987, Bethea took his own life shortly after allegedly robbing two convenient stores.  His body was found in a neighborhood known for drug-trafficking and other drug activity.  His 5-year Cowboy career was characterized by criticism for unrealized potential.  Despite never being convicted for a drug crime, Bethea was reportedly one of several Dallas Cowboys who were about to be indicated on federal cocaine charges, but were instead given an option of entering mandatory drug rehab.

3. Rafael Septien (1987)

Rafael Septien was a Mexican-American kicker who played for the Los Angeles Rams and later for the Dallas Cowboys. Septien left behind a legacy of scoring records throughout the 9 seasons that he played for the Cowboys.

In 1987, Rafael Septien was arrested in one of the most controversial cases to make our list. Septien was charged with aggravated sexual molestation of a minor. He was able to secure a deal and pled guilty to lesser charges of indecency with a child.  The case was followed nationally, with Septien vehemently denying the charges while law enforcement confidently expressed their certainty of his guilt.

Ultimately, Septien pled guilty and received a ten-year probated sentence, and was released from his position on the team. 

dallas cowboys arrests

4. Michael Irvin (1996)

Michael Irvin, now a sports commentator and analyst as well as a product promotor was considered among the greatest wide receivers ever to play for the Dallas Cowboys. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the NFL in 2007. 

With the Cowboys,  Irvin won three Superbowl Championships over the course of his career before calling it quits after a serious back injury.

Irvin was known as a flamboyant player and trash-talker with the skills to back up his talk on the field.  He was disliked by opposing fans and loved by Cowboy fans.  

During his playing career, Irvin was no stranger to legal issues. As he stated, “I would go out and spend my offseason city to city chasing women, drinking, getting high, doing those things,” Irvin told NFL Films in 2007’s “Michael Irvin: My Road to Canton.”

 Criminal allegations surrounding the star athlete began in 1996, when Irvin was accused of sexual assault of a Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleader at gunpoint. Fortunately, the accuser came forward and pleaded guilty to filing a false police report.  

More legal issues followed, including post-retirement arrests for misdemeanor drug possession in 2000. cocaine drug possession and a sexual assault accusation in 2007, which was settled out of court as well.

5. Nate Newton (2001)

Nate Newton, a beloved offensive lineman and member of the Dallas Cowboys, found himself under arrest in one of the more famous of the Dallas criminal incidents. He was arrested what was considered a routine police stop by Louisiaa police and was found with 213 pounds of marijuana.  

Weeks later in Texas, Newton was arrested again, this time with 175 pounds of. marijuana in his van.  In 2002, he was sentenced to (and served) 30 months in prison and was released in the fall of 2004.   He has since turned his life around and remains hugely popular. 

6. SAM HURD (2013)

Sam Hurd, a former wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, was charged and convicted on federal drug conspiracy charges in 2013. Hurd was expelled ft from the league following his arrest on these drug-related criminal charges.  He faced a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.  Ultimately, the football star was sentenced to 15 years in jail, after attempting to set up a tri-state cocaine operation.   He is scheduled to be released in 2023. 

7. Greg Hardy (2014)

The Dallas Cowboys chose to sign Gregg Hardy to a contract shortly after the defensive lineman had been released by the Carolina Panthers.  Why was Hardy released?  He had been arrested for domestic violence after strangling and threatening to kill a former girlfriend. 

The Cowboys were criticized roundly by media and the population at large and this particular story remains in the minds of many when who consider criminal behavior as a characteristic of Dallas Cowboy players.    He only played 12 games for the Cowboys and never played in the NFL again.


Are you facing criminal charges in Dallas or surrounding areas? The Texas Judicial System is not on your side. These famous cases prove that even NFL football stars can sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of law.

Call the best, don’t bother with weak or inexperienced defense lawyers in Dallas.  Gregg Gallian is an experienced, aggressive attorney who will fight back against the Texas Criminal Justice System on your behalf. Gallian Firm has helped hundreds of clients beat serious criminal charges, including  some of the same crime charges the Dallas Cowboy  players faced–drug crimes, sex crimes, theft, violent crimes, and more.

Don’t waste another second! Reach out to Gallian Firm today at 214-432-8860 or request a free case review online.


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