Editorial: Hazing, Bullying, and Extortion in Sports need to stop

All sports in the high school, college, and professional ranks need to stop hazing, bullying, and now, we see the beginning of an alarming new trend: Extortion.

To begin, this is not an article in regards just to sumo, I’m talking about all sports in general. Any kind of bullying, hazing, and extortion need to be punished with some time in a jail cell.

Why do I want to talk about this?

The sport of Sumo is rooted in ancient cultures and traditions which for centuries included the ritual of hazing wrestlers to “toughen” them up. However, this situation takes the cake. Simply put, I am sick and tired of bullying and hazing in sports.

I’ve been a victim of severe bullying seven times over and now I say this: It’s time for things like this to stop.

So what happened?

The news broke a week ago in regards to 6′ 8″ sumo prodigy Hokuseiho, a wrestler from the Miygaino stable, was found to be bullying, hazing, and extorting wrestlers. This comes on the heelsĀ of a tournament that may have helped saved Sumo’s image for the long-term. However, the Japan Sumo Association’s recovering image was again grossly damaged by rumors that Hokuseiho, the behemoth prodigy being coached by Hakuho (Now Coach Megaki) was assaulting wrestlers and stealing from them. Wrestling in general (whether WWE, New Japan, Sumo, or other leagues for that matter) has taken too much of a blind eye towards hazing to “toughen the wrestler up” but now this marks an extremely low point in the world of wrestling with these allegations that have come to light. This apparently went on for a full year with this wrestler.

Hokuseiho was already planning to turn in his paperwork, retire, and already declared that he was “Honestly remorseful.”, But the Japan Sumo Association was in fact planning to fire him regardless even if he turned in his papers or not. Why would a promising wrestler who busted his butt from Jonokuchi to the Makuuchi ranks stoop to this low of a level just to impart his toughness on the lower ranked wrestlers? Why? Because his thought was that sumo association would take a blind eye and just say: Hey, it’s part of life, deal with it.

He’s also accused of extorting wrestlers as well of enriching himself to the tune of $150,000.00. That right there should be a jail sentence.

But this time, ever since the dignity of the ranks has been slimed since the low point of 2011, the Japan Sumo Association is taking absolutely no chances with it. The Japan Sumo Association is still also dogged by match fixing rumors and ties to the Yakuza gang of Japan.

There are no contracts in sumo. You basically live off of the rank you are at (you get a salary at the top 2 divisions) and you have to work your way to the top thanks to the fact there is promotion and relegation in the sport and you can lose your salary if you fall to Division 3 or lower (where you only get an allowance… Not a salary). I do get that wrestlers are getting weary of the Japan Sumo Association’s rigorous and strict way of doing business but I do believe that the Japan Sumo Association needs to take heed of the wrestlers’ income situation.

It’s not just sumo where the hazing and bullying is happening.

This is all sports high school and above thinking that it’s all fun and games to “toughen someone up” or to just pick on someone for the “fun of it.”

Take some of the scandals of our time: Like the St. John’s basketball team and the head coach throwing basketball at players… D.J. Durkin, the then Maryland coach and the Jordan McNair situation… High School football players abusing their authority and popularity to pick on students that may be to them “geeky” or “too smart.”

These kids in high school believe that they’re the next big thing on sports and they get to hang with the most popular of kids, get private tutors, but at the same time: They have zero regard for their work in the classroom and at home because they have an “image” to maintain. If they get a D, they’ll sweet talk their teacher to give them a good grade.

Hazing the junior athletes to toughen them up? It’s very commonplace for that to happen as the senior players will, at their own or the coach’s discretion, put the junior players through hell and back. Coaches and players who approve and do this? Do not belong in the sport and should be immediately tossed from the ranks. I hate to say it but the high schools and college staff in general has a hierarchy and sometimes they won’t listen to some “Dilton Doiley” who is asked to just brush it off and ignore. No, administration needs to take action.

I think “Friday Night Lights” and an episode of “The Golden Girls” brought light to a lot of the problems in sports today

You look at today’s sports with new Name, Image, and Likeness rules in the NCAA in which an athlete can make money because they’re considered employed by the college to be a student-athlete. In a 9-0 decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States, it raised a lot of anger amongst the masses who did not agree with this position. A student-athlete gets a college scholarship, free room and board, free meals, they get to travel, and I can go on.

Friday Night Lights, the series on NBC, brought to light a lot of these issues. Matt Saracen was a great quarterback, but despite which, he had to face the pressure of dealing with J.D. McCoy and his high-powered booster father (who had a lot of money).

Smash Williams dealing with the racism from people in a movie theatre… to a coach making terrible comments…

Jason Street, severely damaging his spine, and his scholarship to Notre Dame was revoked. He would later become a registered agent and set his future in motion.

Teachers who don’t take control of the star athletes because of their prowess and scholarship situation, the teachers just let them run the show, and give them a passing grade.

It reminds me of what happened with Bea Arthur’s character in the Golden Girls when she gave the star player a failing grade. Bea’s character Dorothy Zbornak was threatened by students, the coach, and so on because he failed a report on a “Tale of Two Cities.” Dorothy stood her ground by continuing to give the star a failing grade until she finally gave in due to all the threats and gave him a pass. The star player though would get hurt in the state championship.

Even extortion and buying silence is now becoming a thing in sports

As you read, Hokuseiho stole as much as $150,000 from several wrestlers from the lower divisions and should face criminal charges for it.

Student-athletes seemingly enrich themselves to extort their classmates to write up their papers for them so that they can get a passing grade and threatening them if they don’t. It’s basically telling the student who’s doing the work for them to keep quiet and not say another word.

Extortion is a serious crime and offense dependent on how much was stolen from the victim.

What can we do to stop this madness?

People need to put on a brave face and blow the whistle on this madness across the United States and also in the professional ranks as well. What Hokuseiho did and what happened in the Japan Sumo Association is a huge black eye to their sport when I felt it was fully recovered from the madness in 2011. Today’s sports needs a whistleblower to say “hey, these are the star players on this sport doing this to me and I have the evidence to prove it.”

Hazing, Bullying, and Extortion is not just wrong, it is a crime. It’s time we put it to end to it in sports and time to call out the athletes who are doing it to assert their position and authority. Just because you are a star athlete DOES NOT MEAN you get to do whatever you want and that’s FINAL!

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Joshua Leuschner

Orioles/Ravens/Capitals/Terrapins/Inter Miami CF fan. Runs a podcast who tells it like it is (I-95 East Coast Sports Podcast) and loves sports, sports betting (responsibly of course), and finding arcane statistics in professional sports. He is also a devoted classic cartoon enthusiast (1930s rubberhose and 1940s-1960s silver/golden age animation), video game player, Enya enthusiast, devotee of classical music (Mozart, Sibelius, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and others), Hair/Classic/80s Rock fan, beer connoisseur, gym goer, former Slow Pitch Softball Player, and traveler.

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