Major League Baseball Teams Continue Hazing
One would have thought that in the aftermath of the Miami Dolphins hazing scandal, North American professional sports teams would take strict measures to enforce a zero tolerance policy towards hazing. This, however, hasn’t been the case in the NFL, with numerous examples of hazing incidents occurring over the past summer. NFL player Zach Hocker, pictured to the right, was asked to choose between performing a humiliating skit or getting an embarrassing haircut. Popular sports media outlets have done little to curb these practices, dismissing them as harmless pranks and antics at best and nostalgically glorifying them at worst.
This week, two Major League Baseball Teams, the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers, illustrated that hazing culture persists in professional baseball as well. The Detroit Tigers forced September call-ups to dress up as Lingerie Football League players and go through security outside of the ballpark. The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, mandated that new players wear a variety of revealing, sexualized costumes.
These actions and the media reactions to them are extremely troubling. The Richie Incognito scandal last year demonstrated that behaviors that would be unacceptable elsewhere in society are not acceptable simply because one plays on a professional sports team. It seems almost certain that the tone of each of these articles would have been much different if covering how new employees were being treated at local hospitals, universities, or factories.
We also know that hazing in the MLB goes beyond what the media cameras are able to capture. Last year, former player Gabe Kapler wrote that new players were forced to provide veteran players with alcohol and sing humiliating songs on command. “The goal, of course, (was) to cause as much embarrassment as humanly possible”, Kapler wrote. Earlier today, former major league call up Dirk Hayhurst wrote about his experiences being hazed as a member of the San Diego Padres. As part of the Padres hazing ritual, Hayhurst was forced to dress in a demeaning outfit in public and drink more alcohol than he ever had previously.
To put it simply, hazing is an issue that professional sports leagues, professional sports teams, and media members need to educate themselves about and address head on. Any lessons that might have been learned in the aftermath of the Miami Dolphins hazing scandal last year have apparently fallen by the wayside. It is time for leagues and teams to provide education programs and punish players, coaches, and administrators upon learning about participation in hazing activities. Media members must begin to treat hazing incidents as the acts of interpersonal violence that they are, rather than continuing to brush them off as lighthearted events when they happen. Effective hazing prevention, after all, requires the engagement of all community members.