Hazing News

The Philadelphia paper tackles football hazing

Here is the link.


While hazing extends beyond football, you’ve got to wonder how much the sport’s macho mind-set contributes to and exacerbates the problem.

“There usually are two reasons for hazing,” said Hank Nuwer, a Franklin College professor who has long studied the practice and advocated for laws against it. “There are those with status and power trying to show their dominance over those who haven’t achieved those things. And sometimes players are hazed in order to get them to quit.”

Nuwer has compiled a database to track the grisly trend. It chronicles 56 hazing-related deaths between 1970 and 1999, and at least one every year since.

The Philadelphia area has had its share of them. In 1954, a Swarthmore football player was killed by a car after teammates abandoned him on a darkened country road. And since the mid-1970s, there have been hazing deaths at Penn, Lehigh, Dickinson, Franklin and Marshall, Rutgers, Bloomsburg, and Delaware, according to Huwer’s research.

Most often the victims died of alcohol intoxication, but some were struck by cars, drowned, electrocuted, even buried alive.

There’s been little research tracking high school hazing. But according to a recent Alfred University study, more than a quarter-million college athletes experience some form of it.

One in five were either tied up and abandoned or forced to commit a crime. Half were forced to consume alcohol, often in great quantities. Two-thirds were deprived of sleep, food, or personal hygiene or humiliated in some other way. Beating, burning, kicking, and branding were commonplace.

Overall, 79 percent of college athletes reported being subjected to some form of hazing. The problem is that only 60 percent said they would report it.

Football players, the study noted, were most likely to be subjected to the worst kind of hazing, that which risked serious physical harm or arrest. Given the sport’s tough-guy image, that’s not surprising.

If those are the numbers for college, by which time many young athletes might be expected to have matured, how bad is it in our high schools?

“There’s certainly been an increase in reported cases,” said Nuwer. “But there’s no way of knowing if there’s more hazing than in the past. It’s been going on for a long time, but in 1989-1990 we started to see more of it. I said then that all these cases were like a red light on the dashboard of a car that was still running. Now it’s like a red light on the dash of a car that’s stalled. There are so many it’s been hard for me to keep up with them.”

He put some of the blame on professional athletes, whose hazing customs often involve demeaning rookies by making them wear outlandish costumes or perform demeaning tasks.

“They’ve sent messages to these immature high school kids that hazing is OK, that it’s somehow entertaining,” he said. “It trivializes it.”

Until it’s prosecuted vigorously, until the coaches and administrators who condone such barbarity are punished more severely, hazing will continue.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based 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 new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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