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November 9, 2013

Column: Bullying in the NFL shows some men never grow up

As if the NFL didn’t have enough problems with head injuries and an increasing public awareness about how dangerous its business can be, evidently it now has to deal with incidents of sophomoric behavior from elephantine players with egos to match who never have grown up.

Anyone who has pledged a college fraternity knows what’s coming when he decides to join: a freshman year of rather constant badgering from those already initiated and who had to put up with it themselves. It’s called hazing, and it’s all in the name of fun -- until it isn’t. And that is more frequent than anyone would like. I don’t know if it still involves regularly being swatted in the butt with a paddle, as in my day. There are worse things, including constant emotional stress.

Most of the men/boys in the NFL come out of a college atmosphere where the chances are pretty good they have some knowledge of what goes on in fraternities, even if they hadn’t actually joined one. So throughout league history, rookies have been subjected to some of the same kind of juvenile treatment as the average college-frat pledge has.

Mostly locker-room buffoonery seems quite harmless: being forced to sing a school fight song or run an errand or even pay big bucks for a dinner out with your older colleagues with huge appetites. While it can be quite expensive, it isn’t as though these “underclassmen” aren’t well-paid. Other times, however, it becomes more oppressive -- as apparently in the case of two players on the Miami Dolphins, both linemen weighing over 300 pounds. Veteran Richie Incognito and rookie Jonathan Martin have become the center of an investigation into what could be an embarrassing (to the league) hazing scandal.

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