The Dallas Cowboys knew that there would be questions about who would start at wide receiver this season. The bigger question that looms now, however, is if the team will support one rookie’s effort to eliminate an ingrained culture of hazing in professional sports.
“I’m not doing it,” Bryant said. “I feel like I was drafted to play football, not carry another player’s pads.”
Despite the fact that Bryant came out later and said he was just joking, the spat brings to light a long-standing tradition in professional sports of new team members performing embrassing stunts or acts of personal servitude to ‘earn their stripes’ on a professional sports teams.
More concerning is an ESPN Sports Nation poll asking if Bryant should take part in the tradition hazing and carry the pads. With over 63,000 responding, 73% believe that such acts of hazing are “good for team chemistry to uphold the tradition.”
This should sound familiar; familiar because it often plays out in fraternities and sororities every fall when chapters extend bids to new members. Instead of carrying pads, new members might be asked to wear a candidate pin every day or formal attire on Fridays. Instead of bagels for the team every morning, candidates are required to be designated drivers, steal articles of clothing from a sorority or make a late night pizza run.
Perhaps you have members like Roy Williams, who use the same, tired excuses to justify the ‘pranks’ and ‘odd jobs’:
“Everybody has to go through it,” Williams said. “I had to go through it…I did everything I was supposed to do, because I didn’t want to be that guy.”
The fight against hazing is never easy, especially when professional athletes glorify the inane acts that lead to more dangerous stunts. Nothing that is worth doing, however, is ever easy. It only took the convictions of three cadets to inspire an international anti-hazing institution that thrives today; what will you do?