Monday, November 11, 2013

The NFL Should Go "Zero Tolerance" on Hazing

I've been a football fan--college and pros--for many years, but everything said in this column is just dead on.

Money quotes:

The Incognito-Martin story is fascinating, but it is also unique and, essentially, isolated. There likely will never be that definitive bow tied to it. That's how it is with most workplace harassment issues.
The bigger deal here is just that: this is a workplace issue first and foremost. It's clear that the NFL does a poor job of following generally agreed upon standards of decency and respect. That's one part of how the "culture" of the locker room is formed. Worse, it trickles down through the sport to levels where the headlines aren't as big but the stakes are so much greater.
The NFL needs to let this issue spur it to do something broader and bolder, something it should have done years ago.
It should step back from the specifics here and just move into the modern era.
It needs to go zero tolerance on hazing, no matter how much moaning and whining the old guard makes. No more rookies paying for dinners. No more taping guys to goalposts. No more new guys carrying the pads. None of it.
The benefits to this stuff are minimal. The problems are potentially huge. The message being sent to younger athletes in all sports is terrible. 
The news is always littered with high school hazings gone bad. Kids are always trying to play adult when they aren't yet capable of seeing the end game. This won't end that – nothing will – but it certainly can't hurt if suddenly kids can't point to the NFL and say, this is how you "build" a team. 
Football exists in a bubble of arrogance, one rooted in the concept that it is somehow more noble and important than just about any other job or extracurricular activity. Too many in its ranks believe it is the only place where character can be built, teamwork forged, life lessons taught and leaders built, mainly because that is their experience. It's nonsense though. Football can do all of these things of course. It can do so many good things for young people.
So can working at Burger King, or studying hard, or learning to play chess, or volunteering at a hospital, or acting in a school play, or whatever. Sports can be great. So can a lot of things.
No matter how often football likes to compare itself to war, it isn't war. This isn't the military. This is a game and, most notably, a business. Extreme team building via primitive bonding measures is unnecessary. What new workers (rookies) are forced to do would not be tolerated at most companies. Nor should it. Here's guessing most veterans would be fine to see this go.