Major League Soccer fans speak out against hazing

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Yesterday, the Vancouver Whitecaps, a Major League Soccer (MLS) team, shared three photos of first-year players Jackson Farmer and Mitch Piraux on social media. These photos depicted the 19-year old, team residency program graduates with embarrassing haircuts and featured the caption “Be glad you’re not a rookie. #rookiehaircuts #vwfc”. Major League Soccer, an organization that has had to deal with hazing allegations previously, then shared the photo on Twitter, implying that they support such behavior within their clubs.

As we’ve discussed previously, it’s not uncommon for professional sports leagues, their clubs, and the media covering them to turn a blind eye and/or promote hazing behaviors. What is encouraging in this instance, however, is that many Vancouver Whitecaps fans and MLS fans spoke out against hazing and that the vast majority of social media replies were anti-hazing, as illustrated by the responses below:

We wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support the efforts of these fans and others who spoke up and let the Vancouver Whitecaps and the MLS know that players should not have to engage in demeaning, embarrassing, or dangerous behaviors in order to be a part of any organization, professional sports or otherwise.

Sayreville High School Fires Football Coach In Wake of Hazing Incidents

sayrevilleAccording to’s Vernal Coleman, Sayreville High School has fired football coach George Najjar in the wake of the hazing and sexual assault incidents that came to light last October. According to reports, four separate hazing incidents where underclassmen were sexually assaulted occurred in a 10-day span in the team’s locker room last September. According to Coleman, Najjar’s coaching position was posted by the district this morning, while his status as a teacher in the school district remains uncertain. Najjar was placed on leave from his teaching job last October.

Los Angeles Lakers Encourage Sexist Hazing

9c8733b28bdbb52d11e45fca55f69d51ca888317One of the popular media narratives surrounding the 2013 Miami Dolphins hazing scandal was that, moving forward, American professional sports teams would take notice of hazing and seek to stop it. Unfortunately, as we’ve noted before, this has not been the case. In fact, numerous NFL and MLB players have experienced hazing in the months since Richie Incognito was suspended and the Ted Wells report was published.

Several first-year NBA players, like their counterparts in the NFL and MLB, have also experienced hazing this season. In October, the Golden State Warriors forced first year players Aaron Craft, James Michael McAdoo, and Mitchell Watt to dress up in embarrassing outfits and sing songs at half court during an open practice. Utah Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood’s teammates have required him to wear a pink backpack with characters from the Disney movie “Frozen” at various times during this year. The 76ers wrapped JaKarr Sampson’s truck in aluminum foil. All of these incidents are occurring despite the fact that the NBA sent out an anti-hazing memo in 2013. Change, apparently, has been short lived.

Perhaps the most flagrant violators of the NBA memo this season have been the Los Angeles Lakers, who are forcing rookies Tarik Black and Jordan Clarkson to wear pink backpacks to all road games and bring baby dolls to all home games. Lakers coach Byron Scott, who encouraged similar hazing practices as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has stated that he will fine Black and Clarkson if they do not continue to participate for the remainder of the season.

Without a doubt, these hazing practices are problematic and, at their core, sexist, but many media outlets have described them as “fun” or “spirit lifting.” Beth Greenfield, senior writer for Yahoo! Parenting, responded to such articles writing, “I’m actually not finding it funny, because of the subtle yet dangerously outdated message it sends: that being forced to act like a “girl” or a “sissy” – or a caretaker! – makes for seriously embarrassing punishment.” Michael Kasdan, senior sports editor of the Good Men Project also has commented, “The 1950’s called. They want their ‘hazing’ idea back…[we] do a disservice to our boys (and to men and women) when we send messages to them that reinforce antiquated notions of gender norms or poke fun at certain behaviors as being girly or sissy. And that’s what’s going on here with the Lakers. It’s immature and its silly, and it has an impact. Taking care of your child, being a dad, that’s the highest form of being a man. True veteran mentors on the Lakers should be teaching these rookies that.”

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.