Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bullying in the NFL


Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Arguably, the biggest NFL story of the year has been the saga involving Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.  According to reports, Martin has endured daily bullying by Dolphins teammates (most prominently Richie Incognito) for quite some time.  A scathing VoiceMail left for Martin, where Incognito uses the N-Word and inappropriate threatening language, was recently released, stirring up controversy and debate over harassment and hazing in pro sports.  As the story as gained steam, former teammates of Incognito note that he seemed to have mental stability issues.

Incognito has been suspended indefinitely.  Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has said he is conducting an internal investigation to get to the bottom of the matter. 

Neither the Dolphins nor the NFL on the whole are looking good after this scenario.  While it was the right thing to do to suspend Incognito, the trouble likely lies beyond one person.  Martin, described as shy, seems to have been targeted for not being hypermasculine enough.  Figures like Hall of Famer Mike Ditka and the Dolphins' own General Manager Jeff Ireland urged that Martin should have simply fought back physically.  Former Dolphin Ricky Williams has criticized Martin for bringing the situation out in the open and not settling it internally.  There's been a lot of finger pointing at Jonathan Martin for exposing an issue many would prefer to keep in the dark.  Martin, according to a source, knows he cannot come back to the Dolphins and likely won't play for this football season.  There's even doubt he will ever play in the NFL again. 

It is alleged that Incognito used racial slurs openly in the locker room.  It seems to be commonplace in the professional sports world to not check or correct irresponsible behavior as long as said parties are "playing well."  After hearing the VoiceMail and reading a rundown of the situation in general, how can anyone defend the actions of Incognito, as well as his teammates and coaching staff (who let this behavior persist)?  Incognito, in a recent interview with Jay Glazer, maintains he was just kidding and that threats to kill and humiliate are just part of NFL culture.  It's a laughable and insulting defense.  The problem lies in the Dolphins locker room, not Jonathan Martin.  The question is whether what's transpired in Miami is an anomaly or the norm. 

Slate: Dolphins Side With Bully

CBS Sports

NY Daily News

Written by Toni

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