Every year, Major League Baseball teams indulge in a high-profile, stupid and offensive ritual by forcing their rookies to dress in ridiculous costumes as they travel home after their final road trip. This is hazing, the team’s veterans humiliating the team’s young players and forcing them to show proper deference and character by submitting to it. Most of the time, the humiliation involved dressing in drag, because, as every red-blooded American male knows, nothing is worse than being compared to a woman. Continue reading
Yesterday, while watching the Boston Red Sox game on NESN as I always do EVEN WHEN THE TEAM STINKS, like this year, because no summer soldier I, team broadcasters Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy pointed out that Sox rookie Henry Owens was watching the game while being taped to a pole, with his mouth taped shut as well.
This is old-fashioned baseball rookie hazing, as Remy explained (also opining that he thought it was stupid when he played and is stupid now). The theory is that this makes rookies part of the team, builds cohesion and spirit, and yada yada yada, all the same phony rationalizations that jerks have used to excuse hazing cruelty and sadism in fraternities, the military, cults and sports teams for eons. The Owens stunt was relatively mild (and mercifully short), but the practice of hazing is still institutionalized bullying, uncivilized, and, as Remy said, stupid.
Sports team players are home town heroes, and role models too. How many kids will be humiliated, tortured, injured or even killed because the Boston Red Sox thought it was funny to immobilize a 6’6″ rookie pitcher by taping him to a pole on live TV, thus teaching him that no matter how good he may be at pitching (and Owens is going to be really good), he’s at the bottom of the pecking order until he “earns” decent treatment and respect. “In my experience, the guys who really liked hazing the rookies were the players who couldn’t play,” noted Jerry, a Sox regular in the Eighties. They were sadistic bullies, in other words, making up for their own inadequacies by abusing others.
You can say that Owens consented, and that’s like arguing that Monica consented when the President of the United States wanted her to emulate a Bourbon Street hooker. Owens could refuse, and be regarded as a bad team mate, leading to a year or more of cut shoelaces, shredded uniforms, insulting messages on his locker and worse “jokes.” Or he could quit baseball and sell Slurpees rather than make a gazillion dollars. He had to submit, and had to smile about it.
So he did.
Even baseball players need to be better at ethics chess than this, and calculate the likely consequences of their conduct. Hazing is unethical, and glamorizing, modeling and trivializing it on TV is irresponsible.
In response to a question in a newly released CNN poll, a majority of football fans responded that the fact that the NFL intentionally withheld from its players evidence that repeated concussions were inevitable despite the supposed protection provided by equipment, and that this would lead in many cases to devastating premature cognitive damage to players which would leave them disabled, depressed, violent, demented and/or suicidal until their early deaths didn’t trouble them at all, as long as they got their weekly Sunday football fix.
All right, that’s unfair. The results actually just showed that only 36% of respondents think that the NFL’s handling of the concussion issue has caused them to view the pro football league less favorably. No, on second thought, it’s not unfair at all.
I’m sure the NFL honchos who are determined to keep their billion dollar profit machine purring away, powered by the game’s consumption of the minds and bodies of young men lured by a short-term bonanza of fame and bucks, are whooping it up in their park Avenue suites. Yup, they did it! They have successfully converted much of America into crass, blood-thirsty sadists who are only different in degree from the Romans who cheered on Nero’s various bloodsports. Continue reading
If you are unfamiliar with this story, the details are here. There is much that remains in question, but the basic outline of the incident is this:
- The Miami Dolphins, like most professional football teams and also most college teams, have a tradition of “hazing” rookies, humiliating and harassing them in various way, “all in good fun, of course.”
- The ironically named Richie Incognito, a starting guard for the Dolphins, was known as an especially relentless and enthusiastic hazer.
- Last weak, the team’s second-year tackle Jonathan Martin walked out on the squad and checked into to a hospital, saying he could he could no longer deal with the continued harassment from his teammates.
- Incognito was shown to have referred to Martin using abusive language and racial epithets in voice messages.
- Based on the evidence of the voice mails, the Dolphins suspended Incognito, who is being defended by his team mates. Sources are saying that his career with the Dolphins, and perhaps the NFL, may be over.
- It is likely that the Dolphin coaches were aware of Martin’s hazing.
This is the perfect ethics problem to approach with what I regard as the most important clarifying question in beginning any ethical analysis: What’s going on here? Continue reading
Talk about strict!
Officials at Omaha, Nebraska’s Creighton Prep were horrified to learn learned that about fifty members of the school’s football team had planned an ethically offensive scavenger hunt that included “a group photo with a topless chick,” “a pic with a fat chick,” “steal a yarmulke from a Jewish synagogue” and “get into a yelling fight with a stranger in public,”along with more harmless challenges.
In fact, the players, divided into groups, lost their nerve. Administrators learned that the players vetoed the most objectionable activities in favor of those that were harmless and silly.
“I’m disappointed in their plan because their plan is inconsistent with the mission of their school,” said Rev. Thomas Merkel, president of the all-boys Catholic school. “I’m proud of the fact that they didn’t follow through on their plan.” Not too proud, though: the students involved received in-school suspensions and were barred from extracurricular activities, including football practice. None of the students were expelled.
The hunt came to the school’s attention when one of the scavenger teams lost its list, which was subsequently found by a student who turned it in to the brass. The administrators determined that the plan “promoted hazing, exploitation of women, theft and other conduct unbecoming of a Creighton Prep student.”
None of which, apparently, the students actually did.
Your Ethics Quiz Question: Is it fair and appropriate to punish the football team members for including offensive tasks on the list, even if none of them were actually performed? Continue reading
Reminding us that one or even several incidents can’t give us the full whole measure of an organization, Hartwick College alum Fred Stoss recalls an act of courage and principle by the fraternity that hazed Michael Warren. Let Fred tell the story:
“I cannot defend the actions of what happened to Mr. Warren. I am a member of Alpha Delta Omega Fraternity, having pledged in 1969 and served as its President from 1971 to 1972. During this time our fraternity was a rather diverse community of whites, blacks, browns, Protestants (Hartwick was then a Lutheran College), Catholics, and Jewish. There is, however, a piece of ADO history (taken from the ADO FaceBook site) that deserves mention: Continue reading
Frequent commenter and anti-child abuse advocate Steven Mark Pilling catalogues the defenses and rationalizations offered here by collegiate commenters who thought my post was overly hard on pro-hazing Hartwick College. The references to “Hounddog” relate to a thankfully buried film shot five years years back that required a 12-year-old Dakota Fanning to be the victim in a graphic rape scene with an adult actor. Steven, along with Paul Petersen and others, successfully exposed the film’s skirting of laws and exploitation of Fanning. You can read my ethics commentary on that horrible story here and here.
“Jack: In reading those collegian posts and your responses, I almost had a feeling of deja vu. Isn’t it amazing how all the excuses and means of “defending the indefensible”- no matter what the specific issue- have points of commonality that immediately grab at you? When I was involved in the “Hounddog” issue, I ran into them all. I see many of them here… Continue reading
A fraternity hazing story—yes, amazing as it seems, there are still hazings—raises the persistent ethical issue of whether a victim is responsible for his own mistreatment if he consents to it. Even if he shares responsibility, however, his consent does nothing to reduce the ethical failings of the abusers, or those of the irresponsible authorities who presided over a sick campus culture.
Michael Warren is an African American who was the only black pledge of the Alpha Delta Omega fraternity at Hartwick College (in Oneonta, New York). His potential “brothers” locked him in a bathroom with other pledges for hours, where they were subjected to ear-splitting music and strobe lights; he was forced, he says, to dress like a pimp, a humiliating bit of racial stereotyping; and, shades of the evil Omega Theta Phi fraternity in “Animal House,” was paddled so hard that he needed medical treatment (“Thank you, sir, may I have another?”). Warren complained, and found himself a pariah on campus, making him so uncomfortable that he gave up his scholarship to transfer to Hofstra. Now he is suing Hartwick, and his lawyer is arguing that his mistreatment by the fraternity “may have ruined his life.” Continue reading
I had a college room mate who used to strip down to his BVD’s and put a traffic cone over his head. Then,using a broom as a baton, he would burst into a room where one of our other room mates was courting a date, and march around singing “Can’t get enough of those Sugar Crisp!”
He’s now a high school principal. Another of my roomies once won a bet by secretly planting a ;large pile of some form of excrement in my bed. He’s a well-respected Wall Street broker. Yet another roommate delighted in jumping out from behind doors, naked, and assaulting us with the painful move known as a “titty-twister. He a runs a construction company, and is the best father I know. And me? I spent much of my college career engineering elaborate practical jokes and capers, including an infamous scheme to steal the new sofa in the suite of some classmates, which they had stolen from an upperclassman.
Which all goes to show that much of the conduct of college kids, in the insular womb of academia, has nothing to do with the real world, and less than nothing to do with the character, judgment, taste and decorum they will need to demonstrate in their careers and family life. Furthermore, conduct that would be wholly unacceptable and even illegal off campus is hijinks and social experimentation on it. Anyone who doesn’t know that either never went to college, or had a really boring four years there.
Here are three brief ethics observations on a horrible story that mostly speaks for itself.
Police arrested members of a Rutgers sorority after a pledge reported being beaten by paddles over a period of seven days, causing her blood clods, welts, bruises and excruciating pain. The young woman said that the six members of the Rutgers chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho told her that the beatings were not hazing, which is banned on the Rutgers campus, but rather an experience that would “humble” her, and build love and trust between her and her sorority sisters. Police say that there were at least six other women who were similarly “humbled.” Continue reading