Bullying hits the NFL

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In case you missed it, Miami Dolphin offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team Jonathan+Martin+2012+NFL+Combine+ojbBeun09Udlclaiming he had endured too much bullying at the hands of his teammates. That’s right, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 312 pound NFL offensive lineman was being bullied and he’d had enough. He left his team and checked himself into a mental facility to get help for what he’d been going through. If this is not the high point of the anti-bullying campaign in America, I don’t know what is.

Honestly, when I first heard the report I was skeptical. Like most people I went through my share of bullying as a kid, but ultimately it was nothing that ever made me think there should be an anti-bullying campaign or that bullying should make the national news. In retrospect, I was wrong. If a man the size of Martin can be bullied to such an extent that he leaves his job, then one can only wonder how a kid in elementary school feels when they are picked on every day, yet have nowhere to go. In other words, it is, obviously an issue that needs to be addressed.

What revolted me most about the Martin case is the news that came out later about the prime suspect in the bullying, Martin’s fellow Dolphin offensive lineman Richie Incognito. If you have not read the details of what Incognito said to Martin, then you’re probably better off. He threatened his life, he used racial slurs against him and he made nasty innuendos that are much to disgusting to print (anywhere, really). And he did these things to Martin every day.

I played sports, I have covered sports for over 15 years and I have been a sports fan for as long as I remember so I know these things happen. The veterans pick on the rookies (or, younger guys). It’s a fact, hazing happens and usually it’s no big deal. Remember in Brian’s Song, how they made Gayle Sayers stand up and sing in the cafeteria? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about it is fine. Rookies carry older players gear or bags, they dress up in silly costumes when the team takes a trip, they have to wear Spongebob Squarepants backpacks – it’s all part of the fun of being a young guy in pro sports and when they get to be the older guys, they pay the new rookies back in kind. Again, no harm, no foul. This type of stuff has been happening for a long time and I see nothing wrong with it.

The trouble, though, comes when it goes to far. After reading what Incognito said, I wondered why he was making such vile threats to his teammate? What was the point? It is well known in the NFL that Incognito is one of the dirtiest players in the game. Heck, just a couple years ago his fellow players voted to give him that very award. Thus, I am left to believe that he is just an awful person. Not only is he dirty on the field, but, apparently, he is quite dirty off the field as well and, fortunately, he has been caught. The team has suspended him and the NFL is investigating the issue further. In my opinion this is a no-brainer. Incognito needs to be banned from the league for life. Ultimately the NFL is a job where people go to work. Even though their work is playing a game, it is still a job. There is no other work environment in the world where the type of things Incognito said to Martin would be tolerated and that needs to be the case in the NFL as well. Incognito needs to go for good and, hopefully, take the horrible bullying with him. It has no place in the game or the world, of that I am quite sure.