Bullying in the NFL

Mackenzie Conner

Mackenzie Conner

In the recent weeks, severe bullying allegations have come to the attention of the NFL. Miami Dolphins player, Richie Incognito, was accused of bullying fellow teammate, Jonathan Martin, by means of text messaging and voice mailing. The abuse was said to consist of racial slurs and death threats, but Incognito defended himself by saying that it was just “harmless teasing” because of Martin’s position as the residential rookie on the team.

One would think (and hope) that by this point in their lives, NFL players would be past the point of this childish behavior. They obviously had to arrive some level of maturity to make it to the NFL, but if resorting to adolescent behavior is what it has come down to, then there are some serious flaws within to organizations of professional sports.

Incognito was suspended by his team, but his response was merely aligned with the nature of football and many organized sports. Actions like this, especially of grown men, beg the question of whether these events will provoke a change within the culture of football. Countless deaths have been the result of this “harmless” teasing in colleges, high schools, and even middle schools.

College hazing has been taken to the limit far too many times, as in high school, because what may appear to be funny to one, can be viewed very differently in someone else’s eyes. Point in case: while being taped to a goal post and having buckets of water continuously thrown on you may be funny to the person/people doing it, it is highly doubtful that the person experiencing it would say the same. The nature of hazing has gotten out of control, because many claim it to be a rite of passage or tradition, and therefore a justification of their actions; however, there comes a point when it is no longer tradition, rather brutality. Suicides in adolescents and young-adults have taken a significant upward turn as a result of hazing.

As a society trying to overcome the epidemic of bullying, we must question the origin of this atrocious behavior. Did Incognito feel he had something to prove to this rookie, to the extent that threats and racial slurs were necessary? Perhaps he felt like his masculinity had been somehow diluted or thought his teammates would find him more admirable? Regardless of the reason, his actions had no legitimate justification, especially for a thirty year old man.

Rumors that the coaches of the Miami Dolphins told Incognito to toughen Martin up have been circulating, but it seems that the entire truth of the situation will never become entirely clear. The NFL has a notorious reputation for being slow to act on necessary changes, such as concussion testing and addressing the brutality of hits. Hopefully, with
any luck at all, the events that have unfolded in the last few weeks will lead to the eventual dissolving of bullying within organized and professional sports.