NFL Rules for Hair Pulling

By Christopher Michael

Look out at an NFL field and you're likely to see a bevy of flowing locks. So much so that Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald breaks down the league into two types of players, "the dudes who care about their dreads and the dudes who don't." But seeing all that hair flowing out of the back of an NFL helmet might make you squeamish, especially for an offensive player. Simply put -- these guys can get dragged down by the strongest athletes in the world, roots and all. And it's legal.

Extension of the Uniform

The NFL sees hair that pours out of the back of helmet as an extension of the uniform. Defensive players are free to pull the hair to make a tackle. In 2008, NFL owners discussed forcing players to tie up or cut their hair if it obscured the name on the back of their jersey. The proposition failed, allowing NFL players to continue to sport long hair at their own risk. There have been incidents where penalties have been called for mistaken horse-collar tackles when the player was actually well within the rules; pulling hair, not the collar. And overly vicious hair-pull tackles have been flagged and fined for unsportsmanlike conduct.

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