Hazing in sports culture across Canada must stop

Reporter: Luke Callebert

It’s time to declare a war.
The war is against the locker room culture that exists in the sports world. It’s a war against a belief that younger athletes must pay their dues, going through the rookie hazing or initiations to become part of a team. It’s a war against the belief that if it happens in a locker room, then it’s okay because the public doesn’t know. It’s a war against the example that’s set for children, that these actions are okay in the sporting world.
It’s also part of a much a bigger war against bullying.
After all, isn’t that what ‘hazing’ really means? Isn’t it just a nicer word for bullying?
Now when thinking of bullying, the common assumption is the big bad bully picking on the helpless individual, usually a child. Think Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons threatening Milhouse or Martin for their lunch money.
According to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in the U.S., bullying happens when a person is “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons,” with negative actions being defined as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.”
So is it that much of a stretch to suggest that bullying happens to professional athletes?
The Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito case in the NFL has brought this to the forefront. Martin, a half black male and rookie for the Miami Dolphins, had to leave the team that drafted him after receiving harassing, racist and threatening text messages and phone calls. He was also forced to pay $15,000 for a trip he wasn’t attending. He received threats against his family. The full extent of the abuse has yet to fully be revealed.
It seems silly at first glance to suggest a fully-grown man, especially one weighing 315 pounds and to be six-foot-five-inches tall, could be bullied.
But it happened.
It’s also silly to suggest that just because these bullying actions took place within a team environment and a locker room that they are acceptable.
But it’s happening.
It’s time for society to realize that bullying can take many forms and can happen to anyone. Cyber, physical, emotional, verbal are just a few examples. All of the aforementioned bullying techniques are a possibility in the locker room of a sports team.
Sports are not meant to be an area where societal norms and rules do not apply.
Sports are meant to be an activity where children can go to build social skills, learn teamwork and most importantly have fun.
The example set by the NFL is one of hate, hostility and bullying. Children idolize these players, look up to them as role models. If the NFL, and society in general, do not take action against this culture, it sets the example for children that if you’re a senior on the team, the new kid is fair game.
Every child that is new to a sports team will now expect harassment. The precedent set is you’re a rookie, you can be exploited, harassed and threatened and because it happens in a locker room with a team, it’s all acceptable.
We’ve seen far too many suicides recently because of bullying – think Rehteah Parson, Amanda Todd.
Instead of fostering a culture where we accept pockets of bullying, it’s time as a society to step up and stamp out this problem completely.
We’ve come too far to stop now.
Bullying used to be accepted as part of school and growing up, it was just something we all had to deal with. Eventually we would all overcome and stand up to the bully. No one ever asked what happened to the kids that never got to stand up or couldn’t stand up to the bully.
Now we do.
It’s time to reach one of the last remaining pockets of bullying – the locker room. It’s time to make a stand.
If you’re an athlete, it’s time to stop doing these hazing rituals just because they were done to you. If you watch the NFL, it’s time to demand that something be done in the Martin incident.
It’s time for people who are paid to play sports to start being role models for the kids who aspire to be them.
It’s time to declare a war on bullying.