In the wake of the NFL’s sorry saga of Jonathan Martin, the question of rookie hazing has been asked across the spectrum of professional sports. So bravo to Calgary Flames director of hockey operations Brian Burke for making clear his no-hazing policy. But as Burke noted during a keynote address at a Toronto sports management conference Tuesday, the core culture of any team’s dressing room won’t be proper unless the players within that room uphold expectations of common decency.
“As a player, if I felt I was getting bullied, I know what I’d do,” Burke said in reference to the Martin case. “I’d end it right there in the dressing room. Whether I wanted to fight or not, I’d fight the guy. I’m amazed that this has gotten to where it is without the players dealing with this.”
Now, you know how I feel about needless fighting. But I’m not talking about fisticuffs in the general sense here. I’m referencing Burke’s general sentiment that if there were a bully in a team’s dressing room, the entire room has to deal with the bully. I think that’s true. Sure, any reputable pro league and individual franchise will come down hard on a bully when there’s evidence of wrongdoing. But in the day-to-day operation of a league and its teams, the players’ room is sacred. Media and/or management can’t always be around to police players. Leadership has to come from within each room.
Cheers to Burke for taking a strong stance against this nonsense. But don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the last you’ll hear of it. In the end, it’s up to each group of players whether conditions become ripe for this ugly situation to repeat itself. Here’s hoping saner ways prevail.