The Outrageous Rookie Meal That Has NFL Players Divided

In life, there can be many rites of passage. Whether it is fraternity on campus or even that 21st birthday, some events are flavored with a type of initiation or a "welcome to the team" for the newbie. Recently, The New York Times raised the question of whether the NFL rookie meal tradition is a good-natured team bonding experience or a form of monetary hazing. 

While some NFL players see this seat at the table as a standard practice, the tide seems to be turning. Torrey Smith was quoted by The New York Times saying, "This dinner sets a precedent for a lifestyle that the majority of players cannot afford to do and shouldn't be living anyway." According to People, Dez Bryant's rookie dinner with the Dallas Cowboys was over $55,000 and Channing Crowder of the Miami Dolphins spent around $30,000. While Crowder did not find the dinner tab that big of a deal, it did represent around 5% of his starting salary. Although this concept might be rooted in NFL teams' traditions, the fact that current and former players are calling the practice into question could spark a change. 

Is the expensive NFL rookie meal really a player's decision?

In 2014, Lane Johnson, a right tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles tweeted a receipt for a team dinner totaling almost $18,000. After media outlets ran with the image, Lane told Philadelphia that it was "no big deal." And, other players went on to explain that the expensive dinners are about team bonding. But still, that social media image gave a glimpse of a pricey secret that some NFL players are tired of hiding. 

In June 2022, wide receiver Torrey Smith tweeted his dislike of the NFL rookie meal tradition. Questioning the concept of spending $50K on a dinner yet lacking financial literacy was another chip away at the football tradition. According to Sports Illustrated, Garret Wilson, 2022 NFL wide receiver rookie, thought that taking his fellow receivers to dinner would "be cool," but the harsh reality that he learned on "The Pivot Podcast" might leave his bank account a little empty. Learning that the dinner tab might not be "his decision" seems to capture the sentiment behind the football tradition. Whether players agree, disagree, or stay silent on the matter remains to be seen. Many football traditions are evolving, and the uber-expensive team bonding dinner might be the next one on the list.