Q&A on the News

Q: Why does the NFL allow these players to wear their hair so long, like past their jersey numbers? Is there a rule that allows this? I don’t like this and don’t think it’s a very good example for the young kids.

—Johnny Johnson, Woodstock

A: There isn’t a rule against long hair in the NFL, but it comes with a risk.

The league in 2003 ruled that long hair is an extension of the uniform and can be used to tackle the player.

“It’s a part of our culture now. I’m used to it,” Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt told the Associated Press in 2010, when he was at Arizona.

Former defensive back Al Harris is credited with ushering in the most recent trend of long hair and dreadlocks. He began growing his hair during his rookie season of 1997, a style that is emulated by many players.

“He’s the first player I saw wearing dreads,” Miami defensive back Louis Delmas told ESPN.com in 2012.

New York Jets linebacker Jason Babin, who played for Jacksonville in 2013, ripped a chunk of hair from Arizona running back Andre Ellington’s head while making a tackle in a game that season.

An Arizona official tweeted after the game that Ellington’s hair was returned to him in a plastic bag.

“When you play hard and fast, it’s anything you can grab,” Babin said after the game.

Former Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, Cincinnati defensive lineman Domata Peko and other players of Samoan descent keep their hair long as a tribute to their heritage.

Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).