Jon Hamm Controversy: Here's Why the Internet Won't Let It Go

Jon Hamm Controversy: Here's Why the Internet Won't Let It Go
Image credit: Miramax

More than 30 years ago, Jon Hamm committed a crime that still shocks us today.


  • Jon Hamm is known for his gentle and polite demeanor.
  • However, the actor was a very different person when he was a student involved in hazing.
  • Perhaps Jon Hamm still deserves forgiveness.

For 30 years, American actor Jon Hamm has been a pop culture darling. From his iconic role as Don Draper, the eccentric creative director of the Sterling Cooper agency in Mad Men, to his recent acclaimed roles as the archangel Gabriel in Good Omens, Cyclone Simpson in Top Gun: Maverick and, of course, Sheriff Roy Tillman in the fifth season of Fargo, Hamm continues to delight fans with his wide range of acting skills.

But unfortunately, when it comes to celebrities under constant public scrutiny, secrets are not so easy to keep. Such was the case in Jon Hamm's life when, in 2015, information about a violent crime committed in 1990 surfaced in the media. Even though it happened almost 35 years ago, fans still can't forget the incident because of its gruesome details.

Let's get to the bottom of what Jon Hamm was involved in that was so horrific, and whether or not it means he deserves to see the end of his acting career.

What Is the Controversy Regarding Jon Hamm?

Because the incident in question occurred before Hamm became an actor, when he was a student at the University of Texas, it was not widely publicized, and despite the outrageousness of the incident, it was quickly forgotten, with few people knowing that Hamm had once committed an incredibly violent and aggressive act. That was the case until 2015, when the Washington Post rescued from oblivion a 1991 San Antonio Light news story detailing the case, which was followed by a lawsuit.

Jon Hamm Controversy: Here's Why the Internet Won't Let It Go - image 1

In 1990, 20-year-old Jon Hamm was a member of the University of Texas chapter of Sigma Nu, one of the oldest fraternities, and it was his involvement in hazing that led to the horrific situation.

In November 1990, student Mark Allen Sanders was initiated into Sigma Nu. When he failed to recite information about fraternity members that he was required to memorize, Hamm, in a fit of aggression, set his jeans on fire, threw him face down in the mud, and beat him with a paddle, resulting in the loss of a kidney, lengthy medical rehabilitation, and dropping out of college.

Hamm, in turn, received only probation under the terms of a deferred adjudication.

So Is Jon Hamm Canceled or Not?

Admittedly, this incident is still shocking in its cruelty, and it is incredibly hard to believe that the very charming Jon Hamm once almost killed a man because of a minor oversight. So it's not surprising that many fans turned their backs on the actor when they heard about it. However, it's a good case study to consider whether Hamm should be canceled at all.

First, it raises the question of whether we should even cancel an actor for his involvement in hazing more than thirty years ago. No, this in no way excuses his actions in ruining a freshman's life forever.

And yet, it's a great example of how much the expectations of our milieu influence our questionable choices, especially when it's a toxic patriarchal environment. All of this becomes a discussion about how we can fundamentally change the system and the mindset so that incidents like this never happen again.

And second, again, this happened more than 30 years ago, and in that time, Jon Hamm must have repeatedly reflected on what he did and tried to atone for his transgression. For example, in 2014, a year before the scandal broke, the actor appeared in a PSA to prevent sexual assault on college campuses on a systemic level.