"Shut Up and Carry the Pads"

(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:


  1. Well done. The real disappointment here was the lack of discussion against hazing on principle. You are spot on about the message it sends to young kids. Hazing in high school athletics has gotten out of control. The mindset is just reinforced by this talk.

    As I was watching the video, I had the same realization that you apparently did judging by the way you finished it.

    How many misguided chapters will use "SHUT UP AND CARRY THE PADS!" as a rallying cry this fall during hazing activities?

  2. And what if he had stood by his original decision, NOT to carry the pads? Maybe it would have given the next rookie...or the next pledge class, the COURAGE to say NO as well. One step forward, two steps back. There is no more slippery slope than compliance with hazing...no matter how insignificant...

    John, I really appreciate this blog and the "real life" associations you make to the fraternal experience. It's a valuable dose of reality for the invincible collegiate fraternity/sorority. I hope Greek Advisors all over the country share your posts with their students. If I was working with students right now, we'd be having educational series of discussions based on your blog. Thanks for all of your insights!