The NFL's latest hair-brained idea

There are more pressing issues than legislating the length of the players' hair for so-called safety issues, says's Steve Lawrence.

Who came up with this hair-brained idea?

Actually, you've got to hand it to the NFL. With such major issues as the imperiled collective-bargaining agreement and the always-looming specter of performance-enhancing drugs, owners at the league meetings that start Sunday in Palm Beach, Fla., are going to spend time talking about hair.

Not the Broadway musical. Not their wives' hair. Not the merits of a high-quality weave vs. Rogaine. Nope, they're going to talk about the players' hair.

Yep, the NFL — the No Fun League, as it's derisively been called all-too frequently — is taking aim at the flowing locks of Al Harris, Atari Bigby and Troy Polamalu, among others.

The NFL says it's a safety issue, citing the Steelers' Polamalu getting tackled by his mane by the Chiefs' Larry Johnson during a game last season.

Safety (wink, wink). Somehow, I think safety is a code word used by a bunch of uptight, rich, white guys somehow thinking that employing a handful of long-haired black men is bad for business.

It reminds me of my first day on the high school football team. The legendary coach, already in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, gathered the team before the first practice and — with scissors in hand — told us that if our hair flowed out the back of our helmet, he'd cut it.

It was pretty much the same story on my first day on the college team, with the legendary, old-school coach threatening to give us haircuts. A few years later, while a member of his staff, I was given the task of strolling through the locker room before the first practice to see who might need a trim.

It seems comical in retrospect, but it also made sense. In high school and college, we represented the community. These are professional athletes, though, and while Harris and Bigby play for the Green Bay Packers, they no more represent the city of Green Bay than I do.

If Harris, Bigby and their long-haired brethren want to draw attention to themselves, fine. If Harris — who hasn't had a haircut since 1999 — wants to save a few bucks, good for him. These are hard economic times, you know, and the $4 million pay hike he received last offseason ain't what it used to be.

Seriously, what harm is there in a player showing a little of his personal style? The NFL's uniform czars make everyone look alike. With their faces hidden behind a helmet, the hair and their dance moves are the only things that separate one player from another.

If I'm lucky enough to have a son, I wouldn't let him wear dreadlocks past the shoulders. But Harris, Bigby and their ilk are grown men. It's not as if having short hair would have helped Harris cover Plaxico Burress during the NFC championship game.

That a bunch of wealthy white men are going to debate the pros and cons of their highly paid employees' hair is just plain silly. Especially with issues such as big-market/small-market revenue disparity and the elimination of the salary cap possibly going to ruin America's No. 1 passion.

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to E-mail him at

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