Timberwolves halt rookie backpack ritual out of hazing concerns

Tuesday November 12th, 2013

Bulls rookies Derrick Byars, Taj Gibson and James Johnson show off their backpacks in 2009. (Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE via Getty Images) Bulls rookies show off their child-themed backpacks in 2009. (Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE via Getty Images)

Controversy surrounding the alleged bullying of Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin has led to increased attention on hazing in professional sports. At least one NBA team is banning a long practiced rookie initiation ritual shared by many teams.

Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad told Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times that team executives told players they no longer wanted rookies wearing child-themed backpacks.

BRANDT: Did the Dolphins do anything wrong?

Muhammad was issued a Jonas Brothers backpack to wear on trips. But now, he says, team president Chris Wright and general manager Milt Newton have informed players they wanted them to stop the tradition.

From the Times:

"They actually said they don't want us carrying them, but I understand with the stuff going on with the football thing," said Muhammad, who entered the draft after one season at UCLA. "They want to be separate from that. . . . Now I think rookie hazing won't exist anymore."

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Last week, Marc Stein of ESPN reported the NBA had issued teams a memo warning that bullying or hazing of any kind would not be tolerated. Stein said the memo specifically mentions the situation involving Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin and details what type of behaviors would violate the NBA’s policy. Major League Baseball veterans have assigned rookies, such as Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland in 2009, to carry and pull child-like accessories such as backpacks. Photos and video of Holland sporting a pink Disney-themed backpack made their rounds of the Internet

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