Detroit Lions Coach, Matt Patricia’s Background Check Blunder Highlights the Reality That Too Many Businesses Use the Wrong Background Screening Vendor


When the Lion’s team President, Rod Wood, was contacted by the Detroit News to provide comment about coach Matt Patricia’s background, this should not have been how he learned of Patricia’s arrest for aggravated assault in 1996.

When the Detroit News broke the story on Wednesday, it opened up a firestorm of controversy and concern. With the country focused on trying to eliminate domestic violence, sexual harassment and gender discrimination, the Lion’s, known widely to be an ethical, conscientious and forthright organization, are now a lightning rod for criticism.

Let’s assume that Coach Patricia’s rendition is accurate and that the complainant withdrew her accusation because he was innocent and it was the right thing to do. The fact that the Lions were hiring a high-profile person for a very, very public job mandates that their background check and hiring processes catch something so easily detectable by anyone with an internet connection.

Detroit Lions Coach, Matt Patricia's Background Check Blunder Highlights the Reality That Too Many Businesses Use the Wrong Background Screening VendorIf the Lions elected to believe Patricia, and it is important to remember that he was never convicted of any wrong doing, and to move forward with the hiring decision, that seems like a reasonable decision. Clearly they followed the letter of the law and confined their decision to Michigan labor and employment law by only using convictions in their process. They even came out later and said that this report did not change their opinion or their hiring decision in any way. The problem for us, as professional background check providers, is that the arrest was not known to them until the Detroit News called. It is sitting in an easily accessible public record that we, and apparently the Detroit News, found in seconds. There was even a newspaper report of the incident available too.


Executive level hiring decisions should include questions to the applicant like: Have you ever been arrested for a felony? Have you ever been charged with a felony?

It is disconcerting to think that the Lions relied on people to conduct this background check, who so obviously failed to find what was so easy for the rest of the world to find and so important for them to know. They should have been made aware of this incident, regardless if it was over 20 years ago.

One can blame the Lion’s, but only to a degree. They, like many other companies in Detroit and across the country, fall victim to the tricks of the background screening industry. This industry works very hard to keep what they actually do hidden and to rely upon legal disclaimers to exonerate them if something like this comes to light. Instead the industry relies on technology gimmicks and misleading named search bundles that end up leaving too many clients feeling a false sense of security, while maintaining a great deal of risk that could otherwise be mitigated.

Far too often, companies and organizations select their employment screening / employment background check provider based upon price, speed (which usually means cutting corners and limiting the sources searched, and of course more legal ** disclaimers!) or because a slick sales person sold them on the latest version of a “super instant background check” technology. Big employee background check firms spend massive amounts of money on sales and entertainment to lock in the work of large employers like the Lions.

The reality is that there is no way to do an instant nationwide background check. Period. Nearly countless records are not searchable from the web, nor are they stored in some private database. Were just not there. In fact, we’re not even close.

This situation should serve as a warning to all employers and business owners to better understand what their background check provider does and does not do for them. Cheap and fast mean what they have always meant, low quality and unreliable. Following the law does not require that you be left in the dark and, like the Lions, every caring, ethical employer should be aware of what the agents working on their behalf are really doing as part of their background check.