(From 2010) Two of my greatest loves in life are fraternity and sports. Those two entities collided this past week with the story of Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Dez Bryant. Mr. Bryant refused to participate in a hazing ritual, specifically declining to carry the pads for a veteran teammate. At first, it seemed like an act of courage, but he has subsequently apologized for not taking part in the tradition after claiming it was a misunderstanding. The incident itself may not have much to offer.
The reaction to the incident is a different story. I've compiled several of the reactions in a video below.
I wasn't surprised, but still dismayed, at the chorus of sports pundits and radio hosts who criticized Mr. Bryant for the stand he took. Most felt that since he wasn't being asked to do anything too rigorous or demeaning, he should have just acquiesced.
I agree that it wasn't much. Carrying pads is the equivalent of asking fraternity pledges to run an errand for an older member. In most cases, there won't be any humiliation or danger involved in such a task. It's not like they tied him up to the goal posts overnight, right? Or beat him with paddles?
However, how much extreme hazing starts as something much more innocent? The worst hazing chapters among us probably started small, got a taste for it, and then kept adding more and more. Small-scale hazing should never be ignored or celebrated, because it can be the precursor to something worse.
Finally, did we miss a big teachable moment? How many middle and high school athletes watch or listen to ESPN? If they were paying attention this past week, what lessons or ideas did they come away with? I've compiled a sampling of many reactions and statements in the video below, and included my own statement at the end: