Hair-Gate Still Lurking

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Hair may still maybe a future topic of discussion for NFL players like Eagles WR Jammal Jones

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Even though the NFL quietly put aside “Hair-gate”, the policy/issue of whether a player’s hair can cover their name plate, at the last owner’s meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell saying that he needed more time to talk with more concerned parties (NFLPA, Players, etc) before trying to tackle this issue. I fully expect a potential NFL battle brewing over individuality versus uniformity when it comes to long hair.  You know the first play of the ’08 NFL Season where a player has his long hair legally pulled that a commentator will bring up the proposed policy.  Clearly there are two factions forming around Hair-gate with some conservative military crew-cut types in NFL (i.e. Kansas City Chiefs organization) preferring that long hair go the way of the old-school “Drop-kick” and long hair enthusiasts like players Steelers DB Troy Polamalu, Saints DB Mike McKenzie, and Packers DB Al Harris not wanting the NFL messing with their individuality any further. 

Diplomatic Colts head coach Tony Dungy recently said about Hair-gate, “I think there is room for personal expression, but when you listen to Herm [Edwards] and the Kansas City guys, it is kind of a uniform thing”.  He added, “You look around and the name is covered, and part of the number is covered. We have to figure out how to address that. Hopefully there is a way to do it and get the best of both worlds (uniformity/safety and self-expression).”  As I stated before, I really don’t care how many tattoos a player has or if his hair is down to his waist as long as the guy can bring the “wood” on the field.

In doing a quick scan of NFL rosters I noticed at least 50 plus players that had long hair including many with the popular African American style of “locks”. The Philadelphia Eagles, the team that I cover, have at least five players (WR Jammal Jones, OL Stefan Rodgers, DB Asante Samuel, DB Marcus Paschal, and DT Trevor Laws) with the hairstyle.  In talking with Eagles receiver and special teams player Jammal Jones (5’11, 205), a five-year NFL veteran, who has hair down to his numbers after 61/2 years of hair growth since college, the former North Carolina A&T player said that he has never been pressured by coaches to do something about his hair.  The 27-year old in talking about his whole take on the “Hair-gate” issue said, “If a player wants to wear is hair over his name, then he should be allowed to”.  However Jones, who also understands how tough it is to stay in the NFL after stints with the St. Louis Rams, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers since 2004, added that if the NFL changed the policy that he would comply.  But I clearly got the sense that he and other long-haired NFL players would talk to the NFLPA about fighting to maintain a players prerogative to wear any hairstyle.

In my Good Samaritan search to help the NFL find a good alternative to the sticky “Hair-gate” issue, I may have found the answer in a New York City based entrepreneurial company called Deshalamar Enterprises Inc.  Deshalamar is the producer of a versatile lightweight head wrap called the “Locks Down” which supports and keeps long hair in place while being fashionable.   In talking with Locks Down designer Deon Leftenant, the inventive fashion conscious young man expressed to me his desire to work with the NFL so that players can follow the rules while not stifling their individuality in order to pursue their dreams. 

Leftnant is confident that Locks Down is the NFL’s answer and he is in the long process of working with the league to get Locks Down approved.  He already has a few prototypes in longhaired players’ hands in an effort to be ahead of the “Hair-gate” curve. 

Here’s hoping that an amicable ending can be found to end this potentially combustible situation.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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2008 NFL Spring Meetings Recap

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Of course everyone heard the “big news” coming out of the NFL Spring Meetings regarding NFL owners opting out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Rookies learning the history of the game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and most importantly the proposed NFL Hair Policy taking a backseat.

But there was much more news that needs to be decimated to the masses.

Indianapolis awarded 2012 Super Bowl – The biggest winner from the Spring Meetings in Atlanta, GA was the city of Indianapolis.  With the opening of 700 Million Dollar Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts state of the art palace will be on display in February 2012 while hosting Super Bowl XLVI.  The new retractable-roof stadium beat out Houston and Arizona for the game. Indianapolis joins Detroit (1982, 2006) and Minneapolis (1992) as the only cold weather areas to host the Super Bowl extravaganza.  The next four Super Bowls will be 2009 in Tampa, FL – Super Bowl XLIII, 2010 in South Florida – Super Bowl XLIV, 2011 in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX – Super Bowl XLV, and 2012 in Indianapolis, IN – Super Bowl XLVI

The Commish to now make teams responsible for misconduct – We already knew NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell cracked down on malcontent players like Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Michael Vick, but now teams — lookout Bengals – will also be held accountable for player offenses.  The exact particulars need to be worked out, but look for fines and possibly draft picks to come into play.  Goodell said about the new policy, “We want to continue to emphasize personal conduct and personal responsibility”.  He added, “One way to do it is to hold teams responsible for the conduct of their players.  BTW:  Is the misconduct policy even working as there were a reported 26 players being arrested or cited since the Super Bowl this year versus 27 players at the same time last year.

Behave yourselves at games fans – Though poor fan conduct is really an individual team/stadium issue, the NFL will now provide guidelines and a helping hand.  The NFL will work teams to ensure that every fan enjoys games responsibly.  I am sure there will not be a “jail” in each stadium as was the case in Philadelphia’s old Veteran’s Stadium.  But look for a more family friendly environment.  Goodell said of fan conduct, “First of all, it’s very possible, and likely, that people can come to a game and enjoy alcoholic beverages or beer and do it very responsibly. What we don’t want is there to be abusive behavior. That includes foul language; that includes disrupting other people who are there to enjoy the game. We’re just saying, come and enjoy yourself, but don’t ruin it for others”.  BTW: Watch out for Commissioner Goodell at stadiums as he attended a game in Foxborough last year incognito with his 13-year-old niece.

Surprise, Surprise the NFL says enough with Spygate – Commissioner Roger Goodell announced to the media that the league has no plans to conduct an independent investigation of the Patriots’ videotaping procedures at this time (Shocker). The NFL teams and commissioner both believe that the league’s investigation was thorough enough and that no new information was gained from the Matt Walsh interview. Goodell when asked if he had plans to talk with Senator Arlen Specter about spygate, gave the terse answer of “Nope”.  I know opposing teams’ fans will also be glad to hear that the Pats got a pass on scalping Super Bowl tickets and allowing a player to practice while on injured reserve with Goodell saying “No” when asked about any actions for these offenses.

More international players – Even though the defunct NFL Europa was a rousing flop and there have been little internationally trained players in the NFL, there was a move to help get more players from abroad.  The NFL agreed to expand the league’s International Practice Squad Program – did anyone know this program is in its fifth year – to 16 players joining the NFL practice squads.

Could the final week of pre-season games be in jeopardy, oh darn – With fans everywhere screaming about playing full price for players that will be cut the next day, the NFL is considering adding a 17th regular-season game in place of the fourth preseason game.  The move would obviously help the “cash-strapped” owners coffers as regular season revenues (parking, game day promotions, television money, etc) are paramount.  Commissioner Goodell said of the proposition, “We actually are looking at”.  Strangely after meeting with the owners, Goodell came out talking about the “journey” in the NFL offseason and seemed to forget about just getting rid of the meaningless 4th week of pre-season games…. Stay tuned.

NFL looking for ways to recoup signing bonuses – With all eyes on the upcoming appeal to the Michael Vick signing bonus case – the jailed former Falcons quarterback was allowed to keep $16.5 Million dollars of his previously paid $20 Million dollar signing bonus, with the NFL appealing – the league may be looking to make changes in the CBA for this issue.  Goodell said, “It’s probably highlighted in a large part by the Michael Vick issue. There are other cases such as Ashley Lelie and others. In the Michael Vick case, he’s not able to play football and as such he got a significant signing bonus and we are not able to recover that. That’s money that could be going to players who are playing the game right now. So we think that there are some adjustments there that need to be made that are beneficial to the veteran players, frankly”.

 Will there be a team in L.A anytime soon?? – During the meetings the new ownership group of the St. Louis Rams denied a report that the team was going back to Los Angeles.  I am sure the NFL drools as it looks at the large television market just waiting to be filled.  With the Colts getting their new stadium this year, you can cross them off the list leaving the Saints, Vikings, Bills, Rams, and Jaguars as possible target for the West Coast.   Goodell said of the idea of a team in L.A amidst the owners opting out, “Uncertainty is never a great thing. So you have that and it could affect the potential for us to get a team in Los Angeles. It could affect the potential for additional revenue streams through television. It can have that impact. I hope it won’t. I hope that we’ll be able to reach that agreement. But there is that potential”.

NFL to honor a couple special golden anniversaries in 2008 – The 50th anniversary of the ’58 Championship Game (“The Best Game Ever” as some say with the Baltimore Colts producing a 23-17 overtime thrilling win over the New York Giants before a historic national television audience) and the 50th anniversary of the AFL (the innovative rival football league that made the NFL an ‘institution’ with their historic merger in 1969).

Proposal by Competition Committee regarding anti-tampering rule (i.e. free agency head start rule) – Goodell said, “We did discuss that. The Competition Committee has met on that a couple of times. We’ll continue to discuss that. As you know, that’s really not an issue in the next several months. We’ll raise it again by October. We need to do some additional work on that”.

 Playoff Re-Seeding and Expanding Roster were not discussed at the meetings.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for Taking It to the House – NFL Insider Blog, BIGPLAY Football, and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Are We Talking About Hair ???

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Apparently the upcoming NFL Owners’ Meetings in West Palm, Florida will resemble many American households from the 1960’s as hair length and style take center stage.  The Kansas City Chiefs have put forth before the owners a proposed rule that would require players to wear their hair in a way (“tuck” it) so that it doesn’t obscure the name plate on the backs of their jerseys.

Sure they are saying that it is a safety issue and that they are not telling players to “cut” their hair due to CBA language that forbids such edicts –The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA expressly prohibits the imposition of discipline based on facial hair or hair length… ACLU would be on the phone quicker than lightning. 

But you cannot tell me that the “Father Knows Best -esque” bureaucratic NFL does not want to rein players in that look unsightly in their opinion.  The NFL is running a VERY dangerous course by forcing player appearance, they already dictate everything with uniforms down to towel length and socks not being pulled up so apparently “hair” is the next step.  I will be interested to see what will happen if the rule passes and a respected veteran like Steelers safety Troy Troy Polamalu doesn’t want to “tuck” his hair.

I personally really don’t care how many tattoos a player has or if his hair is down to his waist.  The key matter in player evaluation is whether the guy can bring the “wood” on the field or not.  I like that some guys have the unusual “forget image” attitude that they are willing to express themselves in a sport where uniformity has gotten out of control.  Plus as Dolphins running back Ricky Williams learn if you play with long hair, it is okay for an opponent to use it against you.

It will take 24 positive votes from the 32 franchises for the measure to pass and if it does look for some fun “barber” fireworks come training camp time.