The Jonathan Martin Case And Bullying

It’s all over the sports pages, but is it bullying?

I am talking about the allegations of bullying being leveled at Miami Dolphins lineman, Richie Incognito by teammate Jonathan Martin. Earlier this week, Martin’s attorney released this statement in defense of Martin’s action to leave the Dolphins.

Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not at issue. Jonathan has started every game with the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in 2012. At Stanford, he was the anchor for Jim Harbaugh’s “smash mouth” brand of football and he protected Andrew Luck’s blind side.

The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued. Beyond the well-publicized voice mail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments such as the quote at the bottom. These facts are not in dispute.

Eventually, Jonathan made a difficult choice. Despite his love for football, Jonathan left the Dolphins. Jonathan looks forward to getting back to playing football. In the meantime, he will cooperate fully with the NFL investigation.

There is also a voice mail from Richie Incognito that was clearly harassing. If Incognito is the speaker then Martin’s reaction is understandable.

If media accounts are accurate, the type of harassment, racial and otherwise, Martin’s describes is clearly inappropriate and demeaning. Martin’s toughness as a player should not be called into question because he felt hurt and attacked by Incognito and the bystanders in the Dolphins organization. One should not have to work in such an environment, whether it is an office or a football field.

Furthermore, the chest thumping some players are doing is a distraction. Saying that Martin should be tough enough to take harassment is ridiculous. How would being oblivious to harassment improve his playing? As long as he does the job on the field, that is what matters. The warped view of masculinity being displayed by defenders of bullying is dangerous in my view.

I hope this gets resolved and the golden rule can become more than just a platitude that players talk about in their post game prayers.