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Hazing in Professional Sports

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Hazing is not unheard of in professional sports, military organizations, and other organizations where men and women seek to prove themselves to each other. This psychology research paper explores the topic of hazing in professional sports, and focuses on the emotional and legal effects on victims

Psychological impact

When looking at hazing from a psychological perspective, it’s not hard to pinpoint the negative effects it has. Hazing has been prevalent in many sports and school systems, especially as of recently. The idea that hazing has reached a professional sports level is a bit hard to believe. It is predicted that hazing would not be as rampant in the professional sports world; assuming that the older, more seasoned veterans would know the difference between right and wrong and whether something is considered dangerous or not. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

Additional reading: Read about cyber-bullying and its impact on young adults.

The continuous hazing of professional athletes, only reinforces to a younger generation that it’s okay to use hazing as an initiation. Hazing comes with severe psychological consequences to the victim and can have detrimental effects on their self-esteem as well as their confidence not only in the sport they’re playing but also in life. Unfortunately, hazing is very popular in the world of professional athletes, especially when involving rookies, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Emotional impact of hazing in professional sports

Hazing in the professional athletic field is quite common and is growing increasingly more so. Prohibiting this behavior may be key in trying to dissolve the problem and stop further emotional effects. This is especially true of professional athletics. Young adults and kids absolutely look up to professional athletes and to see them hazing other teammates can only support the idea of hazing. The unfortunate part of this circumstance is that they don’t recognize the emotional cost of the hazing.

Whether at a professional or lower scholarly level, hazing certainly does exist, and as Crow and Rosner (2002) state:

“Hazing, however, is not limited to amateur athletics. There is a long tradition of hazing rookies in professional team sports. Hazing in sports has received a significant amount of media attention in the last several years” (p.87).

The fact that hazing has recently been more in the public media can certainly be looked at as positive factor in trying to resolve the problem. It ensures that the emotional distress caused by it has been noticed and must be addressed.

Reasons some people haze others

As an institute, athletics is supposed to build the characters of all athletes, ensuring leadership, confidence, and self-assurance qualities in men and women everywhere. Once hazing begins, these qualities diminish, as the violator continues to decimate his own character by acting out negatively towards other members of his or her team. When hazing, someone lowers their own standards to bring down the confidence of another person in order to achieve a feeling of superiority. Power and superiority play a huge role in hazing.

The person doing the hazing can be seen as someone who is struggling to gain superiority because of their own complex (such as gay men in professional sports). Perhaps they feel inferior and need to prove themselves by projecting, or perhaps they have had confidence issues and now that they have the opportunity to exploit someone it helps build their own confidence back up by tearing someone else down.

Unfortunately, the hazer does not realize that it has the opposite result of what they are trying to achieve. The victim obviously loses confidence in themselves and the violator begins to lose their leadership qualities in the eyes of other teammates who see them hazing. As Peluso (2006) states:

“hazing is detrimental to the institution of sport and its ability to build positive character qualities such as strength, discipline, and work ethic.”

This is especially true in the case of professional athletics. The men and women involved in pro athletics are supposed to set an example for not only young men and women, but for one another. The violator is showing that he or she does not respect their teammate and thinks it is okay to demean them by forcing them into actions that would be considered completely unacceptable in any other profession.

The lack of respect shown to the victim will have a negative effect on their self-esteem, even if they know they are only being hazed for being a rookie. This is definitely detrimental to a rookie’s outlook as well. The strain and stress that rookies feel when they are first starting out should come as no surprise. The added stress of hazing does not help the outcome of the players’ ability to perform. Not only are they dealing with the pressure from their coaches as well as their teammates but they are now dealing with the added pressure of their hazers. It is also a confusing situation because the same people hazing them are the teammates that they are supposed to trust. If athletics teaches nothing else, it is to trust.

Hurts players' ability to perform

The added stress of hazing does not help the outcome of the players’ ability to perform. Not only are they dealing with the pressure from their coaches as well as their teammates but they are now dealing with the added pressure of their hazers and knowing witnesses are standing by doing nothing. It is also a confusing situation because the same people hazing them are the teammates that they are supposed to trust. If athletics teaches nothing else, it is to trust ones teammate and hazing guarantees the opposite of that. Though it is all part of an initiation, psychologically it is hard to separate that fact from such a demeaning action.

Although hazing is typically seen in fraternity and sorority type situations, there are obviously more places that it takes place. Rookies in professional sports certainly bear the brunt of its brutality. Though hazing in the professional world usually only involves rookies, it is particularly hard for any other teammates to stand up for the inequality taking place. This is more of a personal matter, and cannot be investigated too deeply but it proves that hazing is accepted to some extent and it seems that there is not a heightened awareness of it. Although the emotional effects cannot be seen to anyone except the victim, the legal effects of hazing are thankfully more public.

Is sports hazing legal or illegal?

By participating in hazing, it shows a negative side of the violator’s personality. It is negative because their actions re-enforce that misconduct and misbehavior are acceptable in certain work professions. If hazing were to take place in the corporate world, it would be highly punishable, considered dangerous, and would be cause for termination. Although there are rarely consequences from athletic directors or fellow teammates for professional athletes, there are legal consequences. These legal consequences may help to solve the problem of hazing, as legal consequences shockingly seem to have more relevance than emotional consequences.

An excellent example of a legal consequence involves the story of Miami Dolphins players, Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. The New York Times (2013) addresses that Martin supposedly left the team after Incognito hazed him. Though there has been no comment from any of the coaches about what Incognito may have done to make Martin leave, it is obvious that there were consequences for it. It proved that victims can become so emotionally caught up in the negative aspects of hazing that they are forced to retire from whatever their professional position is.

Anti-hazing efforts lack legal enforcement

Rarely though is punishment in professional athletics seen, which is why this exact situation is causing such a stir. However, if all hazing that went “too far” was punished in the athletic world, perhaps there would be less of the type of hazing that can be so negative for others. Stopbullying.gov (2013) states:

“Through laws (in their state education codes and elsewhere) and model policies (that provide guidance to districts and schools), each state addresses bullying differently.”

This is reassuring in the fact that there are legal ramifications toward bullying. The ultimate problem though is the lack of reporting such hazing.

End thoughts on hazing in professional sports

Although there are repercussions when it comes to bullying, both legally and emotionally, the psychological aspect of it seems to be far more important. Though there may be solace in suing the violator, the emotional strain that a victim has to go through is far more rigorous than any legal trial could be. Rather than instilling strong qualities in another person that affect them and others positively, hazing tears down the trust that teammates are supposed to build up.

It is unfortunate to learn about the amount of hazing that goes around the professional sports world. Sadly, the involvement of those who are doing the hazing prove to be so mentally disturbing that they force grown men and women to retire from their jobs early in order to get away from the hazing. This is a disturbing discovery and should not be taken lightly, consequences and reprimands should be given and made, so that the people be hazed and rise up and prove that a good attitude and strong will surpass bullies in every way.

References

Branch, J., & Belson, K. (2013, November 4). In Bullying Case, Questions on N.F.L. Culture. New York Times, p. 2.

Crow, B., & Rosner, S. (2002). Institutional and Organizational Liability for Hazing in Intercollegiate and Professional Sports Teams. Hein Online, n/a, 87.

Peluso, A. (2006). Hazing in sports: the effects and legal ramifications. The Sport Journal, 9(1), 1.

Policies & Laws. (n.d.). Home. November 27, 2013, http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/

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