The story never changes, even if the circumstances do.
For what seems like forever, society is rife with a culture of bullying that only seems to be getting worse as the years go on—despite the admirable efforts of those who carry the anti-bullying flag.
Bullying exists on the playgrounds, in the classrooms, on the school buses and, with the onset of technology, in cyberspace.
Now, with the revelation of the disturbing case involving Miami Dolphins’ offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, it’s becoming clear the adolescent generation is not the sole supervisor of the bully pulpit.
For those not aware of Martin’s situation, you should be. Because what he is going through needs to be brought out into the light of day to make it clear to everyone that, no matter big or rich or old or young someone is, nobody deserves to be treated with intimidation, with disrespect, and with cruelty.
Martin left the Dolphins on Oct. 28 after being the subject of a prank in the team cafeteria, which involved several players inviting the quiet-natured lineman to join them at their table—only to get up en masse and walk away the second Martin sat down.
Martin reportedly threw his tray down and left the cafeteria and, soon after, the team’s headquarters. He has since reportedly enrolled himself in counselling to deal with “emotional issues.”
If I, or any of you, had to have endured what Martin allegedly has, I’m guessing we’d have some “emotional issues,” too.
The immaturity level of that move alone by a supposed bunch of grown men is staggering. But the daily news releases detailing just what Martin has gone through is nauseating.
The main ringleader in this fiasco is fellow lineman Richie Incognito, a 10-year veteran of three teams whose history includes being thrown out of both the University of Nebraska and the University of Oregon for his inability to manage his behaviour, and who was cut by the St. Louis Rams after piling up unsportsmanlike conduct penalties like squirrels stockpiling nuts for winter.
Recently, appalling voicemails and text messages sent from Incognito to Martin were turned up by reporters.
Included in the barrage of insults and intimidation were threats from Incognito on Martin’s life, a pledge to slap Martin’s mother in the face, the use of a racial slur (Incognito is white; Martin is biracial, with mixed race parents), and a promise to perform an action against Martin so disgusting I will leave it to you to look up if you so wish.
When his diabolical actions were uncovered, Incognito first hid behind a thin cloak of innocence and feigned outrage—demanding for media outlets to clear his name.
Then, when all evidence pointed to just how much Incognito lacked a conscience, this paragon of virtue tried the old misdirection play, basically saying the truth of the matter eventually would come out and that the whole matter will just pass.
Of course, Richie. I’m sure that’s why the Dolphins indefinitely suspended you and that the likelihood of you suiting up for Miami — or any team — ever again is pretty much nil.
As for anyone who stands up on your behalf and say the comments were all in good fun, here’s a newsflash: you’re either lying through your teeth or you need to seriously examine your concept of what you consider to be comedy.
The fact that Incognito or anyone else seems to view this whole matter as no big deal, and his actions as justifiable, is enough to turn most stomachs. But the affair takes an even more ridiculous turn when the opinions of various others connected to the situations are considered.
Some of Incognito’s black teammates call the lineman “an honourary black man.” What kind of sad indictment is that about their lack of pride as black people if they simply can brush off what were—joking or not—racially-insensitive comments from Incognito?
Do you think for a second if some white non-teammate walked up to any of them, and called them or any member of their family the same name, that they would have just let it slide?
Of course not. That’s what known as the epitome of a double standard.
The rest of Martin’s teammates, meanwhile, stood back and did nothing while this was going on.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Martin and Incognito were like “best friends” before two weeks ago, and that Incognito “took Martin under his wing.”
Wow, that’s credible—coming from a man whose health depends on the people in front of him being able to keep ravenous defenders from tearing him in two each week.
If he didn’t back Incognito, I get the feeling the next time Tannehill lined up to take a snap, the five guys in front of him suddenly would turn into revolving doors.
Do we not teach our children that those who witness bullying, and do nothing, are just as guilty as those doing the bullying? Of course we do.
Shame on every teammate who had a chance to stop this madness and chose to sit idly by while Martin was reduced to an emotional wreck by Incognito and his henchmen.
And what of the Dolphins’ coaching staff? Well, funny story about that. It’s now come out that head coach Joe Philbin or, at the very least, one of his assistants told Incognito to “toughen up” Martin.
Philbin denies any knowledge of the situation. That means one of two things: he’s a bold-faced liar who fostered and encouraged Incognito’s crimes and should be fired; or he’s completely oblivious to what’s going on with his team and should be fired.
Former NFL’ers—most of whom are so courageous, they refuse to have their names used—say Martin should have handled it himself, being he is 6’5” and 312 pounds.
Oh, of course. I mean, nobody ever picked on the bigger, heavier kid with the soft-spoken personality, did they? Open your eyes, you Neanderthals.
If Martin punches Incognito, as Dolphins’ general manager Jeff Ireland reportedly told Martin’s agent to suggest to his client (another sign of the Dolphins’ egregiously poor leadership), then you can bet Martin would come out of it looking like some out-of-control youngster with no respect for his football elders.
If he doesn’t, then he’s branded as “soft” for not standing up for himself.
Talk about a no-win situation.
As someone who was bullied himself in his younger days, I hope this opens everyone’s eyes.
Those of you athletes in high school or other amateur sports, I beg you. Please do not consider Incognito’s actions appropriate or acceptable.
If you see a teammate being bullied, have the courage to step in and stop it. It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do.
Those of you coaching young athletes, please be vigilant that bullying is not happening within your team. If it is, step in and stop it. It’s your responsibility to protect every member of your team—even if it’s from each other.
We’re supposed to be a progressive society, one which preaches tolerance of all people of all backgrounds, and of all physical and personality characteristics.
There doesn’t need to be any more Jonathan Martins who feel alone and trapped in the grip of others’ mean-spirited intentions. Let’s stop just talking about it. Let’s start doing something about it.
If we don’t, then we’re all guilty of letting it happen.
The story never changes, even if the circumstances do.