The New York Times’ Priya Krishna wrote recently about a decades-old ritual in the NFL in which rookie players have to pick up the tab on an expensive meal for their teammates. All of them. While some see it as a fun little tradition, others consider it a form of hazing that exploits new recruits.
In 2014, Philadelphia Eagles player Lane Johnson tweeted a photo of his bill from his “rookie dinner,” which hovered around $20,000. This isn’t even on the higher end—bills can reportedly get into the $50,000 range.
In June, former NFL player Torrey Smith tweeted that rookie dinners were unnecessary and put undue pressure on new players to be financially irresponsible. It’s especially unsettling considering that the average career in the NFL is short—just three years—and players aren’t guaranteed a contract.
The meal’s defenders say that the rookie dinner isn’t the thing that’s going to make an NFL player go broke, but rather their other financial choices, like buying multiple houses or cars. Either way, it doesn’t seem like the league is going to do anything to put a stop to the tradition, since there’s a laundry list of other things the public is mad at the NFL about (brain injuries, Roger Goodell as a concept, etc.).
Reading through defenses of the rookie dinner, it seems like many are coming from the perspective of, “Well, I had to do it, so everyone else has to, and it’s FUN, right? It’s fun!” Rookie dinner defenders and anti-student-debt-cancellation crusaders should kiss.
Here are some alternative ideas for NFL team bonding: laser tag; a group cooking class; a field day where you do that thing where everyone jumps around in a huge sack (sack race? Is this just from movies? Will someone do this with me?); a sleepover where everyone swears that whatever you say during Never Have I Ever is gonna stay in the room even though it obviously won’t; lunch at, like, Panera?