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The number of hazing incidents being reported among professional athletes is rising at an alarming rate. Even more alarming is the increasingly dismissive way these incidents are being treated by league leadership, management, coaches, players, fans and the media.

What some call “harmless pranks” and “rookies paying their dues” is hazing, not “good, clean fun.” Hazing is not only morally wrong but illegal in 44 states. While people want to draw distinctions between a rookie carrying a veteran’s equipment and a high school freshman being sodomized by teammates with a broom handle, both are hazing. Both began as a prank in the name of “tradition” and one ended by getting violently out of hand.

HazingPrevention.Org defines hazing as any action taken or situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule, risks emotional and/or physical harm, to members of a group or team, whether new or not and regardless of the person's willingness to participate.

Professional athletes are role models for young athletes and should lead by example on the field and off. It’s time for the NFL to take steps to end hazing in the league and for ESPN and other sports media to cease their practice of reporting hazing incidents as fluff instead of the serious news they should be.

For more information about hazing and hazing prevention, visit www.HazingPrevention.Org and

Letter to
The NFL and ESPN and all other sports media print and broadcast outlets
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, other collegiate athletic associations and nearly all state high school athletic associations have adopted strong hazing policies that allow them to investigate incidents immediately and levy consequences accordingly. Often, those consequences include criminal prosecution. Certainly, all professional sports leagues should implement and enforce such policies. There is no reason that carrying the pads of veterans, ice baths, wearing wigs, paying for expensive meals and singing the fight songs of alma mater institutions are hazing at the amateur levels and not at the professional level. Perhaps at the professional level, these types of acts are sufficient enough for veterans with a need to assert their authority over rookies. But at the high school and collegiate levels, what begins as small acts of humiliation have borne deadly results. There is no place to draw the line. Hazing is hazing, whatever the intent and whatever the result.

Leadership must begin at the top and in sports that leadership must start with you. If our young athletes see that our nation’s premier professional sports leagues will not tolerate hazing, perhaps they will understand that hazing is wrong and young talent, self-esteem, dignity and even lives, will be saved. There is absolutely no doubt that the men who play for NFL teams stand as the heroes of young athletes. It is time for those professionals to assume the responsibility that comes with the job and to set a positive example for our youth from elementary school through college.

The fact is that hazing at any age or level of severity is antithetical to teamwork. A good team, by definition, must rely upon the strength and talent and perseverance of each member of that team. Degradation of any team member by another other team member or coaching staff does not build strong teams.

Workplaces in this country do not allow hazing of new employees, and there are consequences for those who commit these acts against their co-workers. Hazing is also antithetical to professionalism – whatever that profession might be and even if the workplace is a locker room or a football field.

Embarrassment, humiliation, degradation, emotional harm or physical injury simply have no place in the game on the field or in the game of life. While football is a contact sport, its athletes are expected to assert sportsmen-like conduct. Reasonable aggression is expected. Bounties are prohibited. There is an honor between teams despite the rivalry, so why shouldn’t there be an even higher honor among one’s own teammates.

We encourage the NFL adopt a policy of intolerance for hazing and enforcement of consequences for those who violate that policy. We encourage you to use the strength and reach of the NFL and the league’s talented athletes to irrevocably alter the path of hazing for the future. Prevent it among your employees and you will play a major role in preventing it among young athletes.