Hair today, gone tomorrow? NFL to decidePALM BEACH, Fla. — Of all the issues facing the NFL right now — the fallout from “Spygate,”
By: By JASON WILDE/The Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Telegram
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Of all the issues facing the NFL right now — the fallout from “Spygate,” the potential reopening of the collective bargaining agreement with the players and the possibility of a 2010 season without a salary cap, tampering by clubs before the official start of free agency — what’s the big hairy deal about the length of their players’ hair?
“To be honest with you, I really hadn’t given it much thought,” Detroit Lions president Matt Millen, a member of the league’s competition committee, said Sunday afternoon as the annual NFL meetings began at The Breakers resort. “That was the least of my concerns. That’s Kansas City’s deal.”
Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs are sponsoring a proposal that would prohibit a player’s hair from covering the name plate or numerals on the back of his jersey. If the proposal passes, players who violate the rule could be fined, just as they are for not complying with the league’s dress code.
“It’s more of a uniform violation. That’s what we’re saying,” Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. “We’re not advocating that players have to cut their hair. I’m the last person that would advocate that. Because when I played, my hair was way out to here (in an Afro).
“But there’s a certain way you want players to look. There’s a way you’re supposed to wear our uniform. We just want the hair underneath the helmet. We’re not saying you have to cut your hair. But what we represent on that field, how players look is very, very important to the National Football League.
“Will it pass? I doubt it.”
The Green Bay Packers have two players — cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby — who would currently be in violation of the proposed rule. Two others — linebacker A.J. Hawk and quarterback Aaron Rodgers — have hair that sticks out the back of their helmets, although it doesn’t obscure their names.
“I’ve gotten a few calls from friends asking if I’m going to cut my hair, even though it’s not long enough to cover my name right now,” Hawk said when reached on his cell phone Sunday. “I guess (the NFL) wants to be able to see the guys’ names, so they can sell his jersey and keep the league going. I don’t see any way that it passes. Even if it does, I can’t see guys like Al and Atari cutting their hair.”
Bigby actually chose not to attend the University of Miami (Fla.) because the Hurricanes would have required him to cut his hair, in conflict with his Rastafarian beliefs.
It also seems unrealistic a player with hair as long as Harris, for example, could put his hair up and have his helmet fit correctly. That, in turn, could create a safety issue.
“There’s no way a guy like Al, or Atari the same way, could do that. When Al puts his hair up in that hat of his, you’ve seen it — his helmet would definitely not fit,” Hawk said. “There’s no way he’s going to get that into his helmet.”
Millen, who admitted he had some “very hirsuite individuals” as teammates during his playing career, said when the competition committee met Sunday and while the hair issue came up, “we really didn’t say much about it.”
Atlanta’s Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the committee, said the Chiefs wouldn’t make their presentation until Tuesday and the issue wouldn’t come to a vote until Tuesday or Wednesday.
The CBA is clear that teams cannot discipline players for their hair length, and the NFL Players Association is against the proposal and has said it would fight it.
“For management council or ownership to say we need all our players to cut their hair or bind it up or whatever, I think they need to understand it goes way beyond just haircuts,” Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae, the new president of the NFLPA, told the Nashville Tennessean last week.
“It goes into a cultural issue with the African American population in our league and also with the Polynesian population. The hair is a part of their culture. It’s part of the history and the background. To ask a player to cut it off just because a select few don’t like it, I think there is an issue with that.”
Edwards took offense to the suggestion the rule would affect more black players than white players.
“I don’t look at it that way. I just look at it as a uniform violation. I don’t see black and white,” Edwards said. “It’s the National Football League. Hopefully we’re beyond that. If any player thinks that, then they can look at me.
“It’s got nothing to do with color.”
— Copyright (c) 2008, The Wisconsin State Journal/ Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services