For years, NFL veterans have hazed rookies by making them pay for expensive dinners, running up obscene restaurant tabs as part of their initiation. Some perceive the practice as bullying, keeping alive the outdated viewpoint that young players have to “earn” the respect of their older, more established teammates, accomplished through disgusting hazing rituals and humiliating pranks presented under the guise of “tradition.”
During his appearance on The Pivot with former NFL players Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder, Jets first-round pick Garrett Wilson said he’s already dreading the hit to his wallet, worried he’ll be left with a bill like the one Dez Bryant paid in 2010, setting him back almost $55,000. Taylor did little to assuage Wilson’s fear, recalling how Tom Brady used to torment rookies by making them pay for top-shelf wine (sometimes up to $5,000 a bottle), then heading home after taking a single sip.
In baseball, Freddie Freeman singled out his former Braves teammate Ronald Acuña for wearing jewelry and excessive eye-black, enforcing arbitrary “clubhouse rules” at the expense of their relationship (which Acuña would suggest is nonexistent). Sports culture continues to lag behind relative to other more tolerant professions, rewarding toxic masculinity while obsessing over pecking order. Former Ravens receiver Torrey Smith thinks rookie dinners should be done away with, arguing that it’s veterans’ job to mentor young players, not alienate them.
Beyond the inherent cruelness of it, Smith believes athletes, many of them coming from inner-city backgrounds where money was scarce, should be taught financial literacy. Smith was lucky to have a role model to look up to early in his NFL career, learning from teammate Anquan Boldin that blowing $50,000 at a steakhouse is, above all, a giant waste of money.
The 33-year-old offers a refreshing perspective, sharing the belief that all players, from Pro Bowlers to backups fighting for the 53rd roster spot, deserve respect, regardless of their seniority.