In the hazy, cell-phone-shot video that made Tom Coughlin frown even more than usual, Jason Pierre-Paul can be seen gleefully carrying teammate Prince Amukamara through the halls of the Giants’ locker room. Second later, Amukamara, wearing his socks, shirt and gym shorts, is dumped in an ice bath to the delight of his teammates laughing and high-fiving nearby. Amukamara does not look like he’s enjoying himself.
Almost immediately, punter Steve Weatherford posted the video to YouTube, where reposts and Facebook links earned it a spot on SportsCenter.
Meanwhile in Oakland, veteran OT Joseph Barksdale gleefully posted pictures of Raiders’ rookies getting new “haircuts” for their rookie hazing activity of the day.
“Hairline!!!” he brags, showing off a picture of a rookie’s badly-shaved head.
Other pictures follow on Twitter: Cars wrapped in plastic. Pictures of rookies tied to a pole together. In Tennessee, rookies were forced to do “dizzy bat” races and then the loser was Saran-wrapped to a poll and doused with water.
Hazing, of course, is a time-honored tradition in the NFL. But it’s now become the subject of public competition between teams.
“It’s become ‘how far can you go’ so that the rest of the world will see it,” said Trevor Pryce, a retired defensive end, who brags he once drove a rookie’s car to the top of a hill a mile away from practice in Denver and left the windows open (it was snowing).
It’s also one of the few let-loose moments to which the NFL turns the other cheek. Despite the fingerwagging that ensued after Giants’ incident, the NFL said it is leaving anti-hazing policies up to individual clubs.
That’s perhaps an odd choice given the league’s involvement in the anti-bullying movement. The 49ers, for example, filmed an anti-bullying public service announcement this week. DeSean Jackson made an appearance on The View to talk about the issue.
It should be said that the wider hazing custom is directed at all rookies, not just the physically smallest and least-hyped ones. The custom, players said, hits every player regardless of pay or position. And so long as you’ve been through the process once, even players like punters and kickers are allowed to haze. Which is why even Steve Weatherford was allowed to giggle at the prank against Amukamara.
But the line between hazing a rookie and picking on someone is a fine one, with some Giants’ subsequent comments about Amakumara’s lack of on-field assertiveness indicating a possible subtext. Pryce said he’d heard tales of rookies getting beaten with socks full of soap bars, though he said none of the hazing he was subject to was that cruel. Either way, after the Giants kerfuffle, players didn’t apologize for hurting the feelings of their teammate. They apologized, for the public’s misunderstanding of it.
“We just have to be a little more cautious about how we go about horseplay and, more importantly, about leaking things to the outside world,” safety Antrel Rolle told reporters earlier this month.
“For us guys, it was funny,” Jason Pierre-Paul added. “To the media and to all the fans, they didn’t find it funny. I apologize to the fans and my fans. It was a joke gone bad.”