By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
The NFL culture of bullying has taken center stage in the sports world, after the Miami Dolphins suspended 319-pound guard Richie Incognito for bullying offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. It’s not terribly surprising, since the 30-year-old Incognito already had a history of verbal abuse, racism, breaking the rules, being charged fines, and getting suspended. In other words, he was a known troublemaker and seemed to hide his personal insecurities by being overly aggressive towards others.
So, when Martin left the team because he’d had enough of being treated unprofessionally by the cruelty of Incognito, it sparked a firestorm across the nation. While a lot of childish fans can be seen posting comments on the internet about how Martin was a wuss and needed to toughen up, bullying isn’t about strong versus weak. It’s about being treated with human respect and dignity.
Just because adults are older, doesn’t make bullying okay. Having to deal with foul-mouthed abuse on a daily basis would not be tolerated in an office job, so why should the NFL treat the issue any different? No self-respecting adult will put up with an environment that’s hostile, demeaning, and abusive. True strength comes from kindness, building people up, and cooperating with your teammates. There’s nothing strong about putting someone down, and it’s actually a sign of personal weakness when you do.
What’s bizarre is that Martin and Incognito were apparently great friends. Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo says, “They did a lot of stuff together, so if he had a problem with the way he was treating him, he had a funny way of showing it… I don’t know why he’s doing this… I think this whole thing is ridiculous.”
Receiver Brian Hartline, however, thinks that the closeness might be exactly why Martin felt so hurt. He said, “The people that can hurt you the most are the ones closest to you and that’s exactly what happened.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, believes the NFL situation is just a symptom of a much larger problem in society. “The bullying allegations involving Martin and Incognito have some of the hallmarks of behavior we have seen in larger society,” explains Foxman. “While much of the attention on bullying in society appropriately focuses on young people, this incident awakens us to the fact that it is not necessarily limited to the young. Bullying often occurs in workplace environments where differences of race, class and education collide.”
Featured image courtesy of June Rivera on Wikipedia.