Long haired football players - tackle by hair?

There are a small number of long haired football players, such as the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu. He’s got hair that extends outside his helmet and down his back, about halfway down the numbers. If he became a ball carrier, would it be legal to tackle him by grabbing his hair?

I checked nfl.com, and it said nothing about hair. I would think it would have to be legal - otherwise it gives long haired players an advantage - either tacklers would have to avoid their back completely when tackling or risk a 15 yd personal foul penalty. Note that Troy is a defensive back, so it is certainly possible, though certainly uncommon (he had five interceptions this year), for him to become a ball carrier.

I recall watching a game last year in which the announcers reported an NFL ruling that it was okay to grab hair, for the reason you mentioned. Ricky Williams’ dreadlocks were apparently the test case.

There was a phase where the Packers had a lot of dreadlocked players and this question came up a lot late last season. Seems the hair was ruled part of the uniform and it’s ok to tackle using said - that’s why you’ll see a lot of long hair on Defense and not so much on Offense. However, I’m at a loss to find a cite at the moment…

There might have been a ruling on this back in the 70’s when long hair on men was probably at its height. A player from that era that sticks in my mind is Golden Richards, a Cowboys WR who had long blonde hair hanging out the back of his helmet. He obviously risked being tackled by it a lot.

I thought the same thing when I saw Randy Moss get tackled by one of the Eagles… I swore he was tjen down by his 'fro!

I was wondering how Randy Moss got his helmet on. Does that hairdo puffup and reinflate everytime he takes it off?

Interesting. Are those rulings the result of a general dislike of long hair on men?

Probably not… if I had to guess, it’s for the exact reason that ** muldoonthief ** speculates about.

If players weren’t able to be tackled by their hair, then it would be the equivalent of a giant face-mask as far as penalties would be concerned. Imagine the confusion if someone grew hair down to their waist- almost ANY tackle could be classed as an “inadvertant hair grab”, and the defensive team would get penalized.

As for Randy Moss’s hair, it does reinflate to a certain extent, but I’m sure it’s all screwed up and he combs the hell out of it after the game.

I think they got him an extra-large helmet to accomodate the 'fro. They had probably already had to special-order for him because of his oversized head …


Sports (pro) is weird.

Yup. It was a game broadcast by Fox (forget who they were playing) and the announcers were discussing the dreds on Mike McKenzie. Long hair is considered part of the uniform.

The thinking, IIRC, is a player can’t use long hair as an advantage in tackling penalties when the hair can so easily be grabbed. Intentionally or inadvertantly. Therefore grabbing the hair is considered the same as grabbing the shoulder pads or jersey in a tackle and perfectly legal.

And I agree that a defensive back is the least likely to worry about it.

Really, ref, I accidently grabbed his hair, then I accidently held on for dear life. Felt just like shoulder pads to me. Really, ref.

Any defensive player who pulls on a ball carrier’s hair is likely to get killed. That’s why you never see it happen.

Wasn’t it Edgerrin James of the Indianapolis Colts who cut his hair specifically because defenders were pulling him down by it?

I went looking for a quick cite, but couldn’t find anything. It wasn’t anything recent.

It’s no different than pulling a man down by his fingers.

It’s part of his body.

As it should be.

1970’s New South Wales Rugby League had a few hairies - no helmets in this game. Bit before my time to know how “involved” the flowing got involved though.


Well, the head is off limits, isn’t it? One might consider the hair to be an extension of the head, so it’s a legitimate issue.

You can’t grab the head??

Since when?

You can’t smack the head.

You can’t grab the face mask.

But if I wanted to grab your head and ride you down like a bull…

nothing illegal about that.

No kidding! We had one offensive lineman on my high school team who was never penalized for holding, yet the game films always showed defensive linemen getting tossed around like dishrags when he pass blocked! The OL coach used him as a model for effective blocking.

I really can’t see a good reason for prohibiting hair tackles. Such a restriction would effectively prohibit grabs to the back or would give long-haired players an advantage, and believe me, no football coach from the South, Midwest or the Steel Belt is going to give preferential treatment to a guy with long hair.

In Rugby either Union or League you would be penalised for hair pulling probably after being smacked in the teeth by the owner of the hair you pulled.