Bullying in the NFL: Is this a Cultural Problem?

Posted on Nov 12 2013 - 3:57pm by Isaac Chipps
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131104180958-jonathan-martin-richie-incognito-bullying-single-image-cutThe Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Miami Dolphins last night to capture their first win of the season, but really, who cares?

Although it seems the Dolphins have some serious on field issues, the biggest off field issue in team history continues to loom over this once prestigious franchise, who is still dealing with the with one of the weirdest debacles to ever unfold inside of an NFL locker room.

Lets quickly rehash.

Martin suddenly left the team sighting emotional reasons. The full story came to light soon after he left the Dolphins.

Martin suddenly left the team sighting emotional reasons. The full story came to light soon after he left the Dolphins.

On October 31, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the team citing “emotional reasons.” After his sudden leave of absence from the team, it was reported that Martin left because he was allegedly bullied and harassed by his teammate and supposed, “mentor,” Richie Incognito.

Martin accused Incognito of making racist remarks towards him and harassing him on and off the practice field. Martin showed the Dolphins front office voice mails where Incognito used racial slurs and threats against Martin, and gave numerous accounts of his dealings with the Pro-Bowl offensive linemen.

From there, the Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.

Since then, reports on the debacle have gone rogue, with stories and scandals from both sides becoming publicly exposed for the world to see.

Everything from Dolphins teammates supporting Incognito over the supposed victim Martin, to stories that Incognito held offensive line meetings at strip clubs, to text messages from both sides with explicative words and racial slurs, to stories that Incognito continued to show poor judgment off the field.

On Sunday, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer interviewed Richie Incognito to get his side of the story.

I must admit, Incognito is well spoken and he played the interview about as well as someone in his situation could have. But as of this morning, Incognito is still the face of bullying in America, and this scandal is still the biggest headline around the NFL.

Yesterday, Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross publicly declared his support for Jonathan Martin, and said he would meet with Martin personally to discuss the matter.

Safe to say, this has been the weirdest NFL scandal I have ever seen with my own two eyes.

There’s been Spygate, a bounty scandal, and a lot of concussion drama, but never a bullying debacle.

Is this anarchy in the NFL?

As a fan of the game, I have never understood the unwritten sanctities of hazing in the NFL. For rookies and young players, the hazing tradition has been a rite of passage, mostly consisting of carrying pads, paying for a team meal or two, and being the ridicule of jokes in the locker room.

But my question remains, what’s so special about hazing?

If you are a rookie in the NFL, this is what hazing usually consists of. But is it really a necessary part of the culture?

If you are a rookie in the NFL, this is what hazing usually consists of. But is it really a necessary part of the culture?

Hazing is unnecessary. What good can come of it? I think every player and coach would agree that one truly earns his respect for the work he does on the football field, not for his ability to take a punch or two from his teammates.

Sadly, this situation won’t end well for either Incognito or Martin. In Martin’s situation, many players have been critical of his decision to go public with his story and not keep it within the locker room. For Incognito’s case, this scandal combined with his checkered past may ultimately result in his future status being listed as, “permanently inactive.”

What surprises me the most about this situation is how it all began. Incognito and Martin’s friendship seems very odd when you look at their backgrounds and upbringings.

Martin was a golden boy, born to parents with Harvard educations and successful careers. He played college football at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh and alongside the NFL’s most highly protected investment, Andrew Luck.

Incognito, seen above, has always rubbed people the wrong way.

Incognito, seen above, has always rubbed people the wrong way.

Incognito on the other hand could never get his act together. He couldn’t stay out of trouble and ultimately wound up getting kicked off two premier college football programs. Even in the NFL, Incognito’s personality and style of play garnered a lot of criticism from players and coaches around the league.

Is there someone to blame for this debacle? Should Richie Incognito become the face of bullying in America? Was Jonathan Martin the victim of a cultural problem inside of NFL locker rooms?

If there’s one answer we can all agree upon, it’s that Richie Incognito is clearly guilty of sending racist and inappropriate voicemails and text messages to Martin. That is a fact no one can deny.

But do I think Richie Incognito is a racist? Honestly, probably not. But sadly, racist language still roams around NFL locker rooms quite frequently today.

If there’s one thing we should take away from this strange and unique drama unfolding in Miami, it’s that human beings are sensitive creatures trying to hide their true feelings. The NFL has always been a league that has prided itself on being “men.” However, that doesn’t mean players should have to hide their true feelings to protect their image inside the locker room.

In many ways, I understand players and coaches’ distaste for Martin’s decision to abruptly leave the team and go public with this issue. Former teammate and Miami Dolphin Lyndon Martin wrote a guest column in Peter King’s Monday Morning QB, saying he didn’t agree with the way Martin had handled the situation.

Personally, I applaud Jonathan Martin for standing up for himself and actually taking a stand for what he believes is morally wrong. Even if Martin never plays another game in the NFL, his case could forever change the policies and procedures of NFL teams.

This is going to get ugly, for both sides. Punches will be thrown, people will get hurt, careers will be ruined, and lives will be drastically altered.

But this isn’t about football; this is about making a change. Clearly, a change needs to take place inside of the Miami Dolphins locker room.

1 Comment so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. avatar
    Esther Chipps 12 November, 2013 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Time to change the NFLs unwritten rules!

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