The conflict between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has been getting a lot of attention lately because the situation is atypical. Both men are professional football players on the Miami Dolphins. Incognito has been suspended by the NFL for using racist and vulgar language in voice mails and text messages to Martin. Sources say that death threats and racist remarks were fired.
There are multiple issues that make this story especially compelling. First is the fact that online bullying is not an issue that is confined to only middle school and high school drama; in fact, it can be a problem for older people who are portrayed by the media as “tough guys.”
Secondly, this story puts in question the rules of privacy of personal information such as emails and text messages.
Finally, the story poses the question of how to frame the situation. From the outside, it seems obvious that Incognito crossed a line, but perhaps death threats and racism is commonplace in the privacy of the locker room. Perhaps Martin’s “tattletale” was uncalled for and put the whole team in a negative spotlight.
Several sources are saying that it was Martins emotional issues that caused this controversy to be blown out of proportion. Martin was a Stanford educated football player who studied classics with a focus on ancient history, and the son of Harvard grads. All of these statistics lead people to assume that he is a “softy”.
Another stereotype emerged, that just because Martin was a large, 315 pound football player, he is unable to be bullied. Is this to say that just because of someone’s size and profession, they cannot be bullied? Everyone, no matter what size, color, race, etc. withholds emotions. In our culture, we form and shape the mold of what a football player must be. Big, strong, tough as nails, you name it. Football players cannot and are not supposed have emotions, but they do.
This is the case with Martin, who experienced several racial slurs and offensive language and was issued a death threat by fellow teammate Richie Incognito. Does this happen often in the NFL locker room? Is Martin the first, of hopefully many NFL players, to express how they have been verbally attacked or broken down by a fellow teammate?
The Miami Dolphins are looking to protect their team, and are sticking together through the allegations which have become a media event. The problem with this form of team comradery is that they are not acknowledging bullying as an issue.
Martin has been called a wimp by other players in the NFL and the media. He has gotten negative feedback for coming forward about being bullied. Now what player of any age, race, size or religion is going to claim that he has been bullied.
Potentially now victims will be bullied, and they will be even more afraid to report the incident. And who would not be, after the who team sided with the accused bully. Who has been called one of the dirtiest players in the NFL.
What does this event in the NFL mean for other players and athletes of all ages?