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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