Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Are Outrageous Rookie Dinners a Form of Hazing?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 11, 2014

@Lanejohnson65 on Twitter

1. The $17,000 Dinner

Philadelphia Eagles second-year player Lane Johnson recently tweeted a picture of a $17,000 dinner bill—yes, seventeen thousand.

I mean, that's some Nino Brown territory right there; the only things missing are Instagram photos of the group smoking $50 bills with Randolph and Mortimer. 

But let's look for a moment at what could have happened had Johnson invested that cash instead of spending it lavishly on grilled salmon and house wine for the offensive line.

If Johnson had invested the money and earned—I'm pulling a number out of thin air here—say three percent annually, in 24 years that 17 grand would have doubled.

To a player who earns millions, $17,000 or $34,000 doesn't seem like a lot, but there is a reason that a significant number of athletes go broke after their playing career is over. And it is because of things like that dinner.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Let's say Johnson found some really terrific investments and earned 10 percent on that $17,000 for 20 years. At the end of that time, he will have earned about $114,000.

The point is, instead of spending such a grotesque amount for a mealor in the case of Dez Bryant's rookie dinner, some $55,000, as teammates ordered $1,300 worth of shotsJohnson could have instead used that cash to secure his long-term financial health.

Former Cowboy Jesse Holley, who was at the Bryant dinner, discussed one aspect of it, and it's incredible. Said Holley, per the Dallas Morning News:

There's one called the Louis XIII Rare Cask. They only have about 50 bottles in the world. Two of them were in Texas. One of them is in Houston and the other one was at Pappas Bros. For one shot, it was $1,300. It's Cognac. They brought it out in this case where they had to push a button and it opened up illuminating. They had to serve it in white gloves.

I also need to be clear on something: There are still teams that make rookies pay for trips to Las Vegas as well. There have also been teams, according to a player, who used to make rookies pay for strippers. 

Now, I know what some of you will say. They make millions. What's $17,000 to people who make tens of millions? Or a trip to Vegas. Or a few exotic dancers. I'm sure all of the players who have gone bankrupt thought the same as they lost everything by spending so much on such trivial things.

After Johnson tweeted the receipt image, he was blasted by fans and others. He got predictably sensitive:

Johnson explained to Sheil Kapdia of PhillyMag.com that he paid for the dinner (or most of it) because he didn't do so as a rookie and wanted to keep the tradition going. That's thousands of dollars wasted. There are also the optics of players tweeting about massive dinner bills when there are many families who are struggling daily just to put $10 worth of food on the table.

(And quick aside, big fella: If you don't want people talking about your dinner, then don't tweet pictures of the damn bill.)

These rookie dinners aren't hazing, as some in the media have called them; they're just dumb.

The league office despises these dinners and is trying to eradicate them. But the league hasn't and likely won't do so because many of the players see them as a rite of passage.

I get this. Totally. Over the past few days, I've interviewed players about the dinnerssome extremely great players and some of the NFL's best and brightestand the general theme was that this wasn't hazing, it was a business meal.

Before the rookie wage scale, when top picks earned $40 or $50 million in signing bonuses, these dinners routinely ran in the $50,000 or even $100,000 range. Yes, you read those numbers correctly.

I was told of a rookie first-round pick from the 1990s that was forced to pay—he didn't want to do the dinner but felt he had to—$125,000 for a dinner that lasted seven hours. It's different now, but it's still bad, as the previously mentioned Bryant dinner demonstrates. The dinners have also become one of the rookie traditions that simply will not die. It's scaled back somewhat, but it's still alive and well.

Tim Sharp/Associated Press

And it's not just big-money players who pay for them. One undrafted player told me his dinner was $5,000. The players I spoke to said the average dinner around the league now rarely tops $7,000.

Again, I get it. There are players who want other players to make sure they understand that they are rookies and that rookies must do certain things. I saw the same type of stuff occur when I was in the Army. 

The problem with this is that there is always some player, or group of players, who are the outliers. They don't just want the rookies to pay for dinner. They want to abuse the rookies, and that's where you get idiots ordering $1,300 shots.

There is always someone who will abuse the system. We saw this in Miami with the hazing that occurred there last season.

But outside of Bryant, I could barely find a player who hated the rookie dinners and wanted things changed—not even the ones who had to pay thousands for a dinner. For the most part, the players don't seem to care, and this is why it probably won't change.


HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 17:  Sports agent Drew Rosenhaus walks on the sideline before a preseaon game between the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on August 17, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

2. $50,000 in a Louis Vuitton bag?

Yes, $50,000 in a Louis Vuitton bag.

As first reported by TMZ on SaturdayDeSean Jackson is alleging that super agent Drew Rosenhaus illegally paid him to be his client, and one of the payouts was in the aforementioned bag in 2009.

I knew this type of stuff still went on, but it still sounds like something you'd see on House of Cards. And the scary part? This is just one example. Well, that we know of at least, as there are probably hundreds more like it.

And why a Louis Vuitton bag? Can't you fit $50,000 in a gym bag?

3. Dan Snyder Hires K Street Lobbyists

The Redskins nickname issue won't go away, and the news that team owner Daniel Snyder hired lobbyists this week to help drum up support for keeping the team's namesake only intensifies the fight. This battle will only get uglier for Snyder, and he will end up spending millions that he could have saved by just changing the damn name.

4. 'Delay, Deny and Hope We Die'

One of the worst things that could happen to the NFL is Hollywood doing a movie on the concussion crisis. The league sure is lucky no one in movie-making is willing to take on this highly complicated and controversial subject.

Oh, wait, someone is, according to Jeff Nixon at SportsBlog.com.

This will continue what is an emotional subject, one that former players—they use the phrase "delay, deny and hope we die" to describe what they say is the NFL's approach to retired players—will intensely discuss once the movie is released. The NFL says football takes care of its past players.

Will Smith is rumored to be playing the genius doctor who discovered CTE. Hopefully, this movie will be better than After Earth.

5. Cabanas

I often have fun at the expense of the Jaguars (even though I like the franchise a great deal), but I love the fact that the team is now offering the fans the watch the Jags while sitting in a pool inside the stadium.

I am not sure how many people can afford it, and I am not sure how many will take advantage of this offer. But it's good to see the team trying to draw fans and acknowledging that the Jaguars must utilize unconventional means to fill their stadium.

6. Browns Have No Issues with Manziel

Johnny Manziel had quite the past few days, which included drinking on an inflatable swan (who hasn't done that, though?), getting drafted by the Padres and going to the NBA Finals. It's good to be Johnny.

While the Browns have at times shielded Manziel unnecessarily, they privately have no issues with the fun-loving Johnny, as I was told by an official within the organization. The Browns have fallen in love with Manziel's work ethic. They don't care if he rides a swan at the Belmont (would that be the coward's way out?) and dates a Kardashian.

They're totally relaxed about it. We'll see how long that attitude lasts, though.

7. The Importance of Undrafted Players

Incredible stat: There are 15 undrafted players in the Hall of Fame. That's two more than the 13 first overall picks in the Hall, per NFL.com's Gil Brandt.

This is why teams spend so much time trolling the fringes of the football universe looking for players. It is also another example of why some aspects of the draft are vastly overrated. Most scouts and personnel men make their bones on the later rounds.

8. C'mon, Pete

Pete Carroll is an excellent coach and a far better tactician than he is generally given credit for. But his contention that he would have never left USC for the Seahawks had he known sanctions were coming from the NCAA is just flat out not believable. He told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times this week:

The truth was, an opportunity came up and it was one I couldn't turn away from. ... The NCAA came back at the university … 'Now we're going to revisit after five years.' I had no knowledge that was coming. We thought maybe it wasn't coming because they didn't have anything to get us with. It wasn't five days, it wasn't five weeks. It was five years. ... Had we known that that was imminent … I would never have been able to leave under those circumstances. When I look back now, I would have stayed there to do what we needed to do to resolve the problem.

Not. Believeable. In any way.

I'm not even sure why Carroll would want to go down this path. Just enjoy the Super Bowl win and move forward instead of attempting to get people to believe something that seems impossible to believe.

9. Tom Brady is Right

He's not totally right. Sometimes analytics do matter, but Brady's overall point—that winning is the greatest statistical measure—is correct, particularly when it comes to Brady.

May 17, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks out of the infield after the 139th Preakness Stakesat Pimlico Race Course. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the four major American sports, analytics matters the least in football. The turnover skewers much of the data, but nothing destroys football analytics like the violence of football.

There is no better example of this than the Patriots. Brady had one receiver that played more than 12 games last season, and that was Julian EdelmanJulian Edelman. He is a fine young man, but if the most consistent receiving threat you had in a given season was a seventh-round draft pick and former quarterback, then, well, that says a great deal about how good Brady is.

Aaron Rodgers is not throwing to Julian Edelman. Tony Romo has a Hall of Fame tight end and an explosive receiver. Jay Cutler is throwing to maybe the best receiving duo in the sport. Peyton Manning has an army of talent. On and on it goes. Brady is throwing to…Julian Edelman.

I'm sorry, Julian. No offense.

This, I believe, is what Brady, deep down, wants to say, and I think he will say it in his autobiography once he retires. At least I hope he does.

10. Gronk'd

I wanted to finish this edition with one of my favorite subjects: Rob Gronkowski.

This profile from Esquire is the best piece yet regarding the explanation of "Gronkness." I'm not sure what Gronkness is. I just know it when I see it. Enjoy.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


    Breaking: NFL to Reportedly Ban Winston 3 Games

    NFL logo

    Breaking: NFL to Reportedly Ban Winston 3 Games

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    Baker Wasn't Taking Any S--t from Cowherd

    NFL logo

    Baker Wasn't Taking Any S--t from Cowherd

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Ranking Expectations for Rookie QBs

    NFL logo

    Ranking Expectations for Rookie QBs

    Brent Sobleski
    via Bleacher Report

    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    NFL logo

    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report