Hazing in the NFL: It Can Stop Tomorrow

Fraternities and sororities have long drawn criticism as a result of our shared history of hazing. Despite the positive progress we have made to eliminate this inane, harmful practice, we still have  a long way to go. The practice of hazing, however, is not limited to our organizations, it takes many different forms across many different arenas.

Recently, Dallas Cowboy’s rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant’s made headlines when he refused to carry the pads of his teammate, and fellow receiver, Roy Williams. This rookie rite of passage is just one example in a long line of blatant hazing incidents occurring in the NFL. From tying rookies to goalposts, giving them embarrassing haircuts, and forcing them to sing songs whenever mandated, it’s clear to see that not only is hazing occurring in the NFL, but it is being condoned by veterans, coaches, broadcasters, and the league itself.

Every single state which currently hosts an NFL franchise has anti-hazing laws on the books. Though they vary slightly, most laws generally align with the definition provided by StopHazing.org which reads;

““Hazing” refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

Recognizing that these actions being perpetuated against NFL rookies are clearly incidents of hazing, the focus must shift to the prevention of such actions.

The league has the opportunity to take action to eliminate the long-standing hazing culture of the NFL; and it can be done tomorrow. It simply takes the actions of one man, Roger Goodell, the current NFL Commissioner. As Commissioner, Goodell is responsible for enforcing the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. This policy clearly labels criminal activities (of which hazing is considered) as “prohibited conduct”.

Goodell has become known as a no-nonsense commissioner, who cracks down on any violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, just ask Ben Roethlisberger, Pacman Jones, or Michael Vick. Yet, to my knowledge, Goodell has been silent on these nonsensical, and illegal initiatory rites. If he so chooses, he could take a stand to eliminate hazing in the NFL by holding the offenders accountable. Be it through fines, suspensions, forfeit of salary or some other measure, Goodell could set the tone that the NFL will no longer tolerate hazing.

If condemnation is not the course of action taken by the Commissioner, then consent is the only other alternative. There is no gray area when it comes to hazing. Illegal is illegal. By failing to condemn hazing, Goodell is condoning hazing.

Dez Bryant took a bold stand, declaring that, “I was drafted to play football, not carry another player’s pads.”

He was supported by his coach, Wade Phillips, who said, “They’re a player on your team. They’re not any less or any more than anybody else. I like for them to be treated like anybody else.”

The time to end hazing in the NFL is upon us, and thankfully, Dez Bryant was strong enough to take a stand, and make this an issue of public awareness.

Mr. Goodell, the ball is in your court, and yours alone. I’m looking at you to make the right decision by holding your players accountable to the policies of the league, and the letter of the law. If you so choose, the hazing culture of the NFL can be eliminated tomorrow.

So how does this apply to us as fraternity and sorority members? We are constantly fighting the internal battle to eliminate hazing amongst our ranks, as well as the external public relations battle to shake the hazing label that has been placed upon our organizations. Advocating for the elimination of hazing is a mission that all of us should commit too. Fraternity and sorority members must become the outspoken voices against hazing not just within our own organizations, but within organizations of any size, scope, or affiliation. We must become the leaders in the movement to eliminate hazing in all forms within our society.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?!

Your chapter is a collection of like-minded individuals with a shared goal, full of challenges as well as support mechanisms… Just like an NFL team!

So let’s break this down…

Your Team:
Your team has plenty of unique individuals, with many different roles to play. Allow me to elaborate, and try to see where you fit in.

  • The quarterback is the leader of your team, calling plays, and making the important mid-play decisions to guide your team towards it’s ultimate goal.
  • The running backs and receivers are the faithful players that your quarterback trusts to give the ball to in order to move forward. The QB knows they can’t do it all by themselves, and thus, this delegation is necessary.
  • The defense works to ensure the team stays on top. They are always on alert for dangerous plays that can harm the team. Recognizing dangerous situations, they work to rectify the issue and get the team back on track. This protection doesn’t get the glory, but it is absolutely essential to a successful team.
  • The special teams players are great at what they do; they are, by name, specialists. Although they only get on the field a handful of plays a game, they have mastered their techniques to ensure a successful play every time. These are the players that are often being groomed to take over on the first string offense and defense.
  • Despite all of the amazing players you have on offense, defense, and special teams, sometimes you’ll get a diva, who is all about themselves. This player could care less about the success of the team, they just like to wear the uniform and get their time in the spotlight.

The Coaches:
Luckily, your players aren’t all on their own when it comes to deciding which plays to run. You have some experienced elders to help train your team and advise them to make the best decisions for the betterment of the team. These “advisors” are usually former players who have experienced the trials and tribulations of being in the spotlight. Learning from their personal successes and failures of the past, combined with experience gained through years working with generations of players, these coaches are an amazing resource for the players, and a absolutely essential part of the team.

The NFLPA:
This one I love! The NFL Players Association is the governing body for all players. Their mission statement reads, “We, The National Football League Players Association … Pay homage to our predecessors for their courage, sacrifice, and vision; … Pledge to preserve and enhance the democratic involvement of our members; … Confirm our willingness to do whatever is necessary for the betterment of our membership – To preserve our gains and achieve those goals not yet attained.”

Seriously, HOW GREAT IS THAT??!!

This governing body, or “council” of players, selects deserving individuals to represent the entire community of players in order to “do whatever is necessary for the betterment of [their] membership.” The players, recognizing the importance and value in this representative body, pay annual dues in order to allow for the association to work collectively to improve the experience of every single player.

The Commissioner:
The NFL Commissioner, as head of the league, is entrusted with the duties of protecting the NFL brand, ensuring the leagues success, serving as the spokesman for the league, and disciplining teams and players who violate the rules of the league. Players and teams who receive admonishment can sometimes harbor ill feelings towards the Commissioner. Meanwhile, most players and teams respect the tremendous, and complex duties of the commissioner. Though the Commissioner may sometimes have to serve as the heavy, he or she is always looking out for the best interest of the league. Through small tweaks to the rules, and implementation of new policies and programs, the Commissioner hopes to create the best possible environment for shared success for all involved.

Just in case you haven’t figured it all out, here is your cheat sheet:
The Team = Your Chapter
The Coaches = Your Chapter Advisors, and National Staff Members
The Players Association = Your Governing Council (IFC, NPHC, MGC, Panhellenic, etc.)
The Commissioner = Your Campus Fraternity and Sorority Advisor

I hope this post was thought provoking and enlightening for you. Feel free to leave a comment, and as always, Go Steelers!

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