The spotlight of social attention seems to change on a yearly basis. The latest feature has been pressed solely on the quelling of bullying in all forms, from the schoolyard to the military and now even a National Football League locker room.
This past week, Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin felt victimized by fellow lineman Richie Incognito, whose checkered past includes several instances of verbal assault, racial slurs and what some have simply deemed excessive hazing.
In several text messages transcribed by ESPN, Incognito threatened Martin and made several statements that were, to put it mildly, incredibly demeaning to his teammate. This just four seasons after being named the NFL’s dirtiest player by The Sporting News in 2009.
A growing concern for these types of actions led to Incognito’s indefinite suspension from the Dolphins and may cost the nine-year pro his career.
“He’s done,” according to a ranking club source in Miami speaking to Sports Illustrated. “He’ll never play another game here.”
As terrible as Incognito’s actions were, and make no mistake of how awful they have reportedly been, this seems to be the last straw in so many ways for both bullying and the NFL’s tolerance moving forward.
On one hand, if the NFL can deal with this and investigate it fully within a reasonable timeframe, a message may get sent out to the bullies in any field across the nation as to how much their futures could be jeopardized if they take part in this type of egregious act.
The other side might be a bit cloudier, with harsher penalties coming down in almost any instance of hazing or acting out across the league.
Hazing sounds like a bad word, almost another way of saying bullying but with a much more playful connotation. It’s sometimes hard for people who’ve never experienced what goes on in certain groups like fraternities or inside locker rooms to understand how grown human beings can sometimes act so sophomoric.
Simple as it may sound, it seems to just be the way it was, is and will be, which is perfectly fine in many cases but sometimes things can go awry very quickly.
In Martin and Incognito’s case, a very troubled and powerful man was given a role of leadership on a team that had no other leaders to turn to, and he took it too far before it finally caught up with him.
Bullies seem to have no one to answer to, no authority figure to question their judgment. Incognito took a second-year player’s mind away from just playing the game of football because he knew Martin had nowhere to run.
Society is absolutely correct to focus on intimidation of others, because cases like this one have shown just how widespread the problem really is.
It doesn’t matter how big or small someone is, what their job is, who they are or where they come from. The stereotypical myth of a scrawny fourth-grader with taped up glasses getting his face punched in by a 12-year-old that looks like he just came back from a biker’s convention is gone.
Jerks come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life. Who’s to say a football player can’t be intimidated by anyone else?
The NFL once again has the crowd’s attentive gaze centered on its famed shield logo. It had better do a fine job of setting the example for protection.