By John Boyle
In recent years, we’ve rightly seen an increased effort in sports, schools and elsewhere to eliminate bullying and hazing. Rarely, however, do we consider these to be issues in professional sports, but the topic has become story this week thanks to the mess that’s going on in Miami, where guard Richie Incognito has been suspended indefinitely for some pretty abhorrent behavior towards teammate Jonathan Martin.
On Monday, on the opposite corner of the country, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked about what has suddenly become a hot-button issue in the NFL.
“We don’t allow hazing here, and that’s been just the way that I’ve posted it from the start,” Carroll said.
Carroll acknowledged that in his long coaching career, he has witnessed things that would now be thought of as unacceptable forms of hazing, but that doesn’t mean that type of behavior is OK now.
“I didn’t feel like there was any place for it, but in the past yeah I’ve seen it,” he said. “It’s just an old school way of thinking and a way of operating. We know better, we know better now, and any time that we get a chance to express at it, it couldn’t be more clear and more obvious to us all now and we just need to do a really good job of sending the message properly. That’s not to say that there aren’t little rituals that go on like guys carrying helmets off of the field and stuff like that, but we don’t have time. Our rookies that come in here and our freshmen that came into college are too much a part of the program to be separated in any kind of fashion like that. We just didn’t have any place for it.”
Of course it’s one thing for a coach to say hazing and bullying aren’t OK, but it’s an entirely different task to make sure it isn’t going on. For the most part, the locker room is the players’ domain—you’ll rarely see Carroll, assistant coaches or executives in the Seahawks locker room during the week. That’s why it’s believable that, as he claims, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin didn’t know what was going on with Incognito and Martin. And it’s why in light of this Dolphins news, Carroll made sure to check in with some of the leaders in his team’s locker room to make sure things aren’t getting out of hand.
“I have asked,” he said. “I just asked around to make sure that everything is okay, and we haven’t had any issues about that because that can be the case. I think we’re in really good shape, and I said I’m going to go up there and talk to these guys today, I want my information to be right. I want to make sure, is there anything going on that I don’t know about? As far as I can tell from the people that I’ve talked to I think we’re in really good shape that way. It’s never been an issue and that didn’t happen in college either. I just don’t like it; I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”