Amid the reports that Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys refused to carry the shoulder pads of fellow wide receiver Roy Williams at training camp, one thing stands out.
Roy Williams cannot be trusted to hold on to anything.
And seriously, folks, that should be the takeaway. A professional athlete with pride and dignity shouldn’t be a headline. The fact that it is tells me that the culture of football is one of hazing, degradation, and disgrace.
For a group of individuals who routinely play through injury and thrive on knocking one another around for six-, seven-, and eight-figure yearly salaries, one would assume they can carry their own equipment and pay their own bills. Or better yet, they could give back some of their salaries to assist their teams with hiring more equipment managers.
It is my hope that resisting the stupidity of rookie hazing isn’t limited to Bryant.
On the other hand, it is my fear that it will be. And the consequences for Bryant (assuming there will be some) may be the determining factor.
Having attended high school and participated in athletics, I’m aware that hazing is the traditional way of doing things. I’ll remind you that racial discrimination was once considered in that same vein. Traditions exist due to a lack of creativity or courage, not because they are the best way to do things.
As much as Bryant has been reputed to have character issues, he’s handled himself with class since being drafted.
How many alleged "diva" wide receivers have we seen sign their contracts before any other first-round picks? How many of us would not have hit the interviewer when asked if a parent was a prostitute? And how many of us would have the courage to refuse to carry the pads of a lesser player when the rest of the team ostensibly supports the lesser player?
Bryant should be applauded for his strength of convictions. His coaches, on the other hand, should be roundly condemned for their lack of control that this sort of thing would occur on the professional field of play. Both they and the front office have the ability to fine players for conduct issues.
Instead, we have silence from the Cowboys' camp, an excess of hype in the media, and a bunch of ex-players supporting Bryant. Unfortunately, the support comes because Williams hasn’t done anything to earn his pads being carried, not because ex-players (on the whole) are against hazing.
Therein lies the problem.