I know this is a Minnesota Wild blog site first and foremost. I also know that the staff writers cover a multitude of sports such as lacrosse, soccer, and even other leagues of hockey, including women's hockey. However, one of the biggest stories in this market has come out of the Minnesota Vikings' locker room. The NFL and the Vikings are the most popular league and sports franchise across the state. I know Minnesota is the State of Hockey, but most Minnesotans can't get enough football. Sadly, the most recent news is not of the "good" kind.
Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe published an article on Deadspin.com about his dealings with coaches and management about his activism for same-sex marriage. I am not going to talk about what side I stand on, nor will I preach about my beliefs about the very sensitive social issue of gay marriage. My thoughts are more about the professional sports locker room. A sports franchise is, in fact a business. Big Business. And being that it is such big business, it should adhere to common business practices of other Fortune 500 companies regarding harassment and workplace conduct.
The professional sports locker room is a retreat for players looking to hone their skills, get a good workout, and bond as a team. Often times things said in the locker room never leave the locker room. You could say it's a sanctuary where players and coaches can feel comfortable doing and saying things that they can trust will not make it to the public. It can be one of the most unique and diverse spaces of any business in any industry in the whole world.
Many major corporations have yearly training on proper workplace conduct in which all employees are mandated to sign-off on. My company calls it the "Code of Ethics/Code of Conduct." Many examples of hostile environments are used, including ones that involve sexual harassment, Social Engineering, and even workplace retaliation. The last corporation I worked for had something very similar, so I assume this practice is most everywhere.
The NFL is not alone with these types of bullying issues as Scott Parker, former Colorado Avalanche enforcer, claimed that he was bullied by former Avalanche head coach, Bob Hartley. Parker said Hartley used the threat of a demotion to the AHL if Parker did not play, even, as Parker stated, with a broken foot.
Why does it seem hard for professionals to behave like professionals? Is it the "Macho Mentality" of sports? Is it "just because it's the way it always has been?" The homophobic, racist, and even the bullying conduct is not permissible in any other business, so why does it seem to be okay in the locker rooms?
Former players across the nation sounded off on the Incognito scandal saying John Martin, Incognito's victim, was "not man enough," or "too thin-skinned" to deal with the "manly" culture of the NFL. Even Lou Nanne, a weekly guest on the KFAN afternoon drive-time show "Bumper-to-Bumper with Dan Barreiro," talked about getting hazed as a rookie in the NHL. "I was shaved with a razor blade from my head to my private parts and ended up with a long cut down the middle of my body from the razor," Nanne said. Nanne also laughed it off as though it was just something that rookies had to go through.
I understand the need to bond with teammates. I understand that a player needs to trust the person next to him when taking the field or taking the ice with them. I understand that those people inside those locked doors see you when you're naked. I also understand that there are goofy shenanigans that can be done to "put rookies in their place" without causing injury or other emotional distress.
It begs the question: Are these guys men or children? You would think that an adult male could be more capable of acting like mature adults, right? Unless the truth really is because these guys have been so coddled in life that they never really learn how to grow up and mature. Then later this attitude is perpetuated as these players retire and become coaches.
Racist and homophobic comments, regardless of what you think the First Amendment says, are something not tolerated in the workplace...anywhere. Using these comments to intimidate, pressure, chastise, or berate someone is extremely unacceptable. Regardless if what Kluwe or Parker said is true or not, this kind of culture does exist in sports. And no, just because this is football, or hockey, or any other sport does not make an excuse for it be any more acceptable. Professional sports franchises need be just that, professional.