The "rookie dinner" — where veteran players go out to eat with new teammates, load up on the most expensive items on the menu, then make the rookie(s) pick up the bill — has become the stuff of NFL legend, but a worrying symbol for a league intent on cutting down on any hints of bullying. So you can understand the concerns that arose when Philadelphia Eagles lineman Evan Mathis tweeted a photo of a $64,055.76 restaurant receipt with the message "Teaching rookies a lesson."
Teaching rookies a lesson... pic.twitter.com/RGRutiPMiL— Evan Mathis (@EvanMathis69) June 13, 2014
Mathis tweeted the above picture last night, and then spent the rest of the evening retweeting people outraged at him. What lesson was he teaching? A lack of appreciation for money?
This morning, though, Mathis revealed that the "receipt" was fake. He printed it himself on a folded piece of paper, and he was eating by himself at home.
Last night was fun. Thanks for the great reactions. pic.twitter.com/WMNSXjM8WH— Evan Mathis (@EvanMathis69) June 13, 2014
It's a gotcha, but one that doesn't reflect all that well on Mathis. Earlier this week, Eagles rookie lineman Lane Johnson tweeted about a rookie dinner with a tab for $17,747, mostly spent on steaks and drinks for teammates. That costly bill was criticized because of the sense that Johnson was forced into paying, a charge he and teammates denied. "The bottom line is, it was a team function," center Jason Kelce told NJ.com. "Nobody forced Lane to do that."
Since the bullying scandal of Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito last year, NFL watchers and fans have kept a close eye on players bullying or generally pressuring teammates into spending exorbitant amounts on arbitrary costs. Incognito, for instance, allegedly pressed teammate Jonathan Martin into shelling out $15,000 for a trip to Las Vegas that Martin didn't even attend.
Indeed, the NFL has been sending Human Resources types around the league the past few weeks as part of the "league’s effort to Incognito-proof 32 locker rooms," The MMQB's Peter King explained. Mathis' joke wasn't bullying, but it does give the sense that the Eagles don't seem to be taking the anti-bully efforts so seriously.