Bullying is a problem that will never go away. Whether you’re a child in elementary school or an adult working a job, chances are there will be people who will harass you, whether it is emotionally or physically. While we are constantly showered with stories about teens who are bullied and who end up killing themselves, we never hear about adult bullying. That all changed a few days ago when Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin left the team for personal reasons after being the victim of a cafeteria prank.
The prank, which was a variation on table baiting, where a person is invited to sit with a group of people only for them to abruptly get up and leave led to Martin slamming a tray on the ground and left the team facilities. Later on, what appeared to be a minor issue snowballed into a bigger one when it was revealed that Richie Incognito, another lineman for the Dolphins, was the ringleader of a vicious hazing circle. Incognito, who often referred to Martin as Big Weirdo, had been harassing Martin since Martin was drafted. Among the offenses listed, Incognito forced Martin to finance a Vegas vacation for Miami Dolphins players, pay for extravagant meals, and if that wasn’t enough, threatened him, sent him explicit messages which referred to him as a half nigger, and made sexually explicit threats that included Martin’s family.
Incognito has been suspended for his actions, and Martin is seeking treatment, but this incident has turned over a fresh scandal in light of recent player misconduct scandals that have included the likes of Aaron Hernandez, Aldon Smith, and Justin Blackmon.
Let’s focus on Incognito. A star at the University of Nebraska, Incognito had conduct problems which forced him off the Cornhuskers and ultimately led him to go pro a year early. After establishing himself as a valuable asset as well as one of the dirtiest players in the league. Still, his personal conduct issues continued to dog him, and he ended up being released, then signed by Buffalo. He then left Buffalo and joined the Dolphins, where until two days ago, he was a starting offensive guard.
In Miami, Incognito established himself as a team leader, and reportedly was told by coaches to bring Martin in line and “toughen him up” after the rookie missed voluntary workouts. This may have been the start of the Martin/Incognito saga.
It came to light during the scandal that Incognito was bullied as a child because of weight, and after punching a kid who took the taunts too far, used football as an outlet for his anger.
What Incognito did to Martin is inexcusable and borders on stalking, hazing, and extortion. We get that the NFL is often likened to a military environment, where if you have a problem, you are perceived as a liability, but in the case of Martin, here was a guy who was perfectly normal, who was preyed on by someone who was supposed to be his mentor, his friend. his teammate. I’m not saying that Incognito and Martin needed to hold hands and sing kumbayah, but something needed to happen, and while something did happen, it wasn’t what was supposed to happen.
That being said, Martin is not blameless in this either. Before you tear me a new one for saying this , hear me out. If Martin had a problem with Incognito, he could have handled it in two ways that wouldn’t have caused a massive snowball effect; he could have talked it out with someone, like Joe Philbin, his coach, or he could have taken matters into his own hands. Martin had the opportunity to talk to his superior, but instead avoided him because he “feared retribution” from Incognito. That is a lame excuse. A coach is responsible for bringing order to his team; he is the last line of defense between order and chaos. Philbin was respected enough in Green Bay to get the head coaching job in Miami, the least he could have done is pull Incognito aside and tell him to stop. And so what if Incognito retaliated? Martin could have notified Philbin again, and Incognito could have been suspended or released.
Of course, Martin could have taken matters into his own hands, earning respect by fighting Incognito. In a football locker room, one of the ways to get respect, or so I’ve heard, has been to take down the alpha male. By making Incognito fight, Martin could have either a. sent a message to Incognito that he wasn’t to be messed with again, or b. left a lasting enough impression that he was not going to be a whipping boy for the other members of the Dolphins line.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, but I have used both options in my short life. As a kid, I encountered a bullying problem, and although the bullying was harmless by today’s standards, I still went to an authority figure and the situation was diffused. When I was in high school. despite the fact that I was a wiry 150 pounds stuck on a 5’11” frame, I picked my fair share of fights with kids who were bigger than me who had pissed me off. My success varied. As a freshman, I once tackled a junior who was three times as heavy as me because he had taken some important papers from me and taunted me with them. Two years later, I grabbed and threatened a classmate who had dared make crude jokes about a girl who I was seeing, and he backed off. That same year, in a harmless April fools prank that backfired, I found myself flattened on a pizza parlor table by a much larger lacrosse player. So while the results are mixed, I can say I did earn respect because I made it clear that I was not to be messed with, despite the fact that I had Marfan syndrome and a heart condition.
So what does this come out to? Quite simply, Incognito was out of line, and overstepped his bounds as a player, and Martin was weak willed enough to let Incognito bully him. Had this been taken care of which way it should have been, this wouldn’t have snowballed into the giant mess it has become now.