Hazing News

Hazing in the NFL: A Blight Under Any Other Name Must End

Read the comments from Rick Telander and writers for the Sacramento Bee, NCAA News, Salt Lake Tribune, etc.

NFL Hazing and Rookie Initiations: A Foolish Tradition in Need of Banning.

NFL: Here is a clear message. Grow up.

Now Dez Bryant has never been accused of being an intellectual or social activist, but clearly the man demands a little respect.

In education programs sponsored for a decade by the rules committee NFHS and for three years by the
NCAA,  high school and collegiate players and coaches and athletic directors have learned why hazing cannot be tolerated and how it gets taken to extremes pretty easily.  Heck, no, there would be no outcry against hazing if it were merely the singing of songs, but the NFL has gone way over the line with one beating, charging meals of many thousands of dollars, taping to goalposts and servitude types of requests.

In the NFL that includes a shameful New Orleans football beating of rookies Jeff Danish and Cam Cleeland. In the OHL, a shameful hazing fight on his team cost Moe Mantha a pretty penny. In pro baseball the dressing up of rookies as women in outlandish costumes sends the clear message that to be a woman is leff of a man, and then there was Darryl Strawberry’s mean trick of sawing rookie bats in half by the likes of Gregg Jefferies.

Anyway, here is a compilation of some recent against-hazing articles. I’ll start with the one I wrote for the NCAA publication.

Title: Hazing expert warns of abuse as preseason approaches
Writer: Hank Nuwer


Make no mistake, it took a long time and many tragedies and scandals for the NCAA to take a strong stand on hazing, but once it did, there is no backing down.

Hazing is on its way out, and like it or not, the Dez Bryant refusal to carry pads is one of those “things will never be the same” moments.

Instead of initiations, we’re seeing more and more veterans believe in mentoring – in taking rookies into their care – both as a human gesture and because true camaraderie is at least or more conducive to a winning team attitude than is mindless initiation in the name of misguided tradition.

Major Ralph Houk was right. Big-time sport is humiliating enough thanks to blooper reels on ESPN, hostile crowds, and the pain of injuries and defeats. Humiliation has no place in the locker room of pro or amateur sport teams.

Lots of people get that. Perhaps rejecting the notion of hazing will one day be “a time-honored tradition.”

USA Today
Title: Hazing expert: NFL must step up to prevent ‘the idea of humiliation’
Writer: Gary Mihoces

In a posting on his blog on, Nuwer calls on the commissioners of the major pro sports leagues to institute policies defining and prohibiting hazing. He writes:

“Call it entitlement. Call it what you will, commissioners, but you must call players on it. When it comes to passing the buck on hazing, no one passes it better than the likes of Bud Selig, Roger Goodell and David Stern — and their respective predecessors as commissioners.”

The NFL says such matters as whether rookies have to carry the shoulders pads of veteran is a “club matter,” up to the discretion of individual teams.

“None of this is an adult thing to do,” says Nuwer. “It is just another black mark on sports.”

Nuwer says the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations have taken stands against hazing.

“We’re in an age of extremes, but we’re also in an age when players have gone through lecture after lecture at the high school and college level to say that you don’t have to put up with hazing,” he says. “And then you suddenly get into the NFL, and it’s ‘OK.’ But it isn’t.”

Chicago Sun-Times
Title: It’s amazing there’s still “tradition” called hazing
Writer: Rick Telander

Excerpt: Which leads to the main point. Hazing can be simply cruel and humiliating when it’s done the way it always seems to end up being done — by quasi and genuine sadists who gleefully use the excuse: ”It was done to me. It’s what we do. It’s good for you.”

No, it really isn’t.

It’s a form of power-tripping and vengeance and attempted dominance. The people it’s done to often feel humiliated and betrayed.

They don’t get in line; they wait to get even. And then, in a curious psychological phenomenon, they do it to the next group of youngsters.

Admittedly, carrying some dude’s sweaty pads isn’t that big a deal.

But as Bryant implied in his explanation Tuesday, he didn’t know about the tradition and he didn’t like Williams’ tone when the vet dumped his pads at Bryant’s feet.

It’s all in the presentation. And that’s what gets out of hand.

Back in 1998, when Mike Ditka was the coach of the New Orleans Saints, 20 veteran players forced rookies to put pillow cases over their heads and run a gauntlet while being punched, kicked and beaten with bags filled with coins. One rookie suffered an eye injury, another had a broken nose, another received 13 stitches from a gash on his arm.

Ditka, to his credit, had warned the vets against doing this stuff. But maybe he didn’t know enough about human nature.

The point is, there is no point to hazing.

The Olympian
Hazing outdated in 2010: Hazing was a way to break monotony of training camp in 1960s but NFL is way different now

Hazing never has reached that level in the NFL, although some blindfolded 1998 New Orleans Saints rookies might disagree.

On the final day of training camp that summer, the rookies, with their heads in pillowcases, were forced to run through a gauntlet of fist-swinging teammates, some of whom packed coin-stuffed socks with their punches. When former Huskies tight end Cam Cleeland completed the initiation, he had blurred vision in his left eye. Another rookie, Andy McCullough, suffered a head injury, while a third rookie, defensive tackle Jeff Danish, ended up with facial bruises and a 13-stitch gash in his left arm. (Danish sued the team; the case was settled out of court.)

Granted, there’s no immediate correlation between a veteran’s harmless request that a rookie carry his pads and the frightening experience of running through a gauntlet of fists with a pillowcase on your head.

But a permissive hazing culture that left three Saints rookies injured has to start somewhere.

It starts with the premise that the youngest members of a team are fodder for embarrassment. As NFL veterans believe it’s their right to put rookies in their proper place, it’s no wonder high school and college athletes believe it’s OK to taunt freshmen and, in some cases, brutalize them.

Enough. Hazing in pro football was tolerated, I suspect, because it helped alleviate the boredom of training camps that used to resemble military boot camps. Before NFL employment became a year-round commitment, interior linemen who spent the offseason as bartenders showed up 20 or 30 pounds overweight. Those grueling two-a-day workouts were necessary – the farther away from civilization, the thinking went, the better.

Read more:

Yahoo Sports
Time for Rookie Hazing to End
Les Carpenter

Excerpt: Picking up some bills, having a few pranks pulled on u n doing some odd jobs for the vets is a small price to pay to gain respect,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers wrote on Twitter.

As if there’s dignity in being tied to a goalpost.

Maybe in the days long ago when players went by names like “Bronco” and played together on the same team for years, worked second jobs in the winter and spring, and then drank as one in the local watering holes, hazing had its place. But back then the idea of team was an eternal one. The same group lasted for several seasons – banging heads in the afternoon, then clinking mugs in the evening. There was no free agency. Like it or not, they were together for years and it was essential to build that unity.

But today’s players are independent contractors, subject to the whims of the salary cap and a coach’s need at the moment. Players whip in and out of locker rooms so fast many of them barely get to know the man on the next stool before his jersey is gone and a new teammate is pulling cleats from a bag.

Teams are made on the fly, thrown together in meeting rooms and sealed on a few scrimmages on the practice field – not by making rookies act like personal valets.

Sacramento Bee
Even Mild Hazing Has No Place in the Locker Room
Writer: Bill Bradley
If hazing happens in the workplace, human resources is called. Hazing is not tolerated in the cubicle and shouldn’t be allowed off the field in sports.

Read more:

Salt Lake Tribune
Some Traditions Are Better Left in the Past
Gordon Monson

How’s this for an idea: Bag the rookie rituals, and allow Bryant, and any other newcomer at any level of football, to show his devotion to the team and his teammates and his coaches by what he does, the way he works, in the training room, in the weight room, on the practice field, on game day.

That’s where respect is really found.

Not in some extraneous juvenile tradition.

Not in a player’s willingness to subjugate his dignity.

Not in wrapping a player’s hands and feet in duct tape and chucking him in a tub of ice, and giggling like a bunch of 7-year-olds.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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