The No Fun League

New Proposal Would Ban Long Hair On Field

Long hair is probably the last topic avid NFL fans thought would be introduced into an off-season discussion. Rule changes, draft picks, and free agent signings provide an overflow of conversation year round. However, the free-flow of hair on various NFL players has brought some to push the pedal on a proposal that would prevent it.

During the annual NFL Owners Meetings in Palm Beach, FL, the Kansas City Chiefs made advances on a rule that would restrict players from sporting hair that covers up the names on the backs of their uniforms. Compromising the individuality of players is the latest example of a league that many are now describing as the “No Fun League.”

The NFL Players Association and the league most recently extended its Collective Bargaining Agreement for five years in March 2006. Article VII section 2 of that agreement regarding personal appearance states “Clubs may make and enforce reasonable rules governing players’ appearance on the field and in public places while representing the Clubs; provided, however, that no player will be disciplined because of hair length or facial hair.”

Forcing players to cut their hair is a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the Chiefs have expressed they are not calling for barbers.

“We’re just saying “Don’t cover your name; put it in a ponytail,” Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards said to Fox Sports. The NFL then can say it’s not punishing a player for the hair length, but failing to tuck the hair.

The NFL Owners Meetings concluded April 2nd with some notable changes for the 2008 season. The 32 NFL owners agreed on the ability to use instant replays on field goals, and did away with the always-controversial “force-out” rule, but the hair issue will remain raised until the May 21st spring meetings. 24 votes out of the 32 teams would be needed for the proposal to pass.

Troy Polamalu, a Super Bowl champion and four-time Pro Bowl safety, is the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, and is recognized widely for the long streaming hair that flows from his helmet. Not visiting a barbershop since his junior campaign at the University of Southern California in 2000, Polamalu has attributed his hair as a semblance of his play, where on Sunday’s he lets everything hang on the field.

“The NFL needs to chill, they already banned touched dances,” said northwest resident Alphonso Tindall, referring to the NFL’s ban on “prolonged or excessive celebrations” last March. “Polamalu is Samoan, the long hair is part of the culture, and they [NFL] should have no say over someone’s personal beliefs,” Tindall continued.

Chiefs’ running back Larry Johnson was penalized 15 yards during a 2006 game for unsportsmanlike conduct, when he tackled Polamalu by the hair following an interception. Hair is a part of the uniform, and normally a penalty would not be assessed. Uniforms are required to be tucked in, with socks a certain length, and Edwards, an African-American, is advocating that the hair follows suit.

Players understand the risk of exposing their hair, and some feel this proposal simply crosses the line of prejudice.

“I think they need to understand it goes way beyond just haircuts,” said NFL Players Union president and Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae in a statement. “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.”