From The Bench Column

Getting worse by the minute in Miami

By Chad Upton | Nov 05, 2013
Photo by: Miami Dolphins Football Club Miami offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.

There is little doubt in my mind that we still have work to do in America.  The situation with Jonathan Martin in Miami is clearly another example of it.  Not long ago, I wrote a piece about former New Orleans Saints punter and Lou Gehrig’s Disease survivor Steve Gleason.  
In that piece, I spoke of the sickening statements made by an Atlanta area sports radio station mocking Gleason and his condition.  It would seem, unfortunately, that we’ve got yet another example of pro sports really ugly underside to deal with again.
Last week, Jonathan Martin, a lineman in his 2nd year, left the Miami Dolphins after it was alleged that bullying had taken place in and around the locker room with him as a target.  In essence, it would seem that he could take it no more and was willing to leave his livelihood behind to escape.
Dolphins guard Richie Incognito is said to have sent racial slurs to his teammate, Jonathan Martin, via text and voicemail and has even gone so far as to threaten the life of the second-year offensive lineman. That’s certainly bad enough, but my feeling is that the prevailing sentiment in the NFL is that Martin is really part of the problem.
“I think Jonathan Martin is a weak person,” said one personnel man, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “If Incognito did offend him racially, that’s something you have to handle as a man! Mike Pouncey was a rookie at one point while Incognito was there and you never heard any complaints from him. There’s no other way to put it, other than him being soft.
“Said another: ‘Guys are going to be guys, if you know what I mean. I’m sure there are some instances of ‘taking things too far,’ but that happens everywhere. You handle it in house — fight, handle it on the field, joke about it, etc. — and keep it moving.”
Unbelievable isn’t it.  Basically, these folks are saying that this is simply part of it.  You should have no expectation as a player that you can come to practice or the game each day, do your work as best you can, and go home.  The potential consensus is that a rookie, or a man of color, or anyone else that may be deemed “different” has to expect to be treated with disrespect.  
Heaven forbid that we take this problem elsewhere.  We need to keep all of this to ourselves because we wouldn’t want the media or the general public to know what really goes on here…right?  
I just can’t wrap my head around this one.  As we struggle to protect our children in school, or on the playground, or our spouses in the workforce, we are going to allow this?  Aren’t these football professionals also saying that we should just tell our children to handle it themselves? Keep it to yourself?  Don’t get anyone in trouble?  
This is what leads people to do things that hurt not only themselves but others. The statistics are very clear. The National Association of School Psychologists reports that membership in either bully or a victim group is associated often with school drop out, poor psychosocial adjustment, criminal activity and other negative long-term consequences including acting out violently towards others, often in school or public settings. I don’t have to tell you that these outcomes can be tragic. Doesn’t this make it all clear enough?
I say shame on anyone that believes that this is acceptable behavior anywhere in our country.  We are America. We should be the greatest nation in the world and we should be advanced enough in our collective consciousness to spot this blinding problem.  
No one should go to school, work, church, or to the grocery store and have to worry about being made fun of, picked on, or threatened.  I couldn’t care less if the NFL culture has allowed this for years, it doesn’t make it right or acceptable. If these guys wanted to be treated like professionals, and really earn the money we pay them each year to entertain us, then they should act like a professional worth of multi-million dollar contracts.  We simply need them to be a role model for me and my children.  
They are certainly being compensated financially for that expectation. How am I supposed to protect my children and teach them that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect when they hear what they do to each other in the NFL? There should be no societal exceptions. In fact, there should simply be an even higher expectation.
This is my point.  If we are to learn from the bounty gate scandal in New Orleans, if we are to learn from Steve Gleason and now this, we have to show it.  The NFL, professional sports in general, and all of society must stand together and make a decision.  That decision must be that this type of behavior will not be tolerated by anyone anymore.  Life is hard enough.
These behaviors are simply barbaric and truly fly in the face of what we hold as true and important as a society.  Everything intolerable was once tolerated … until we said that we wouldn’t tolerate it anymore.  There’s a lot riding on this outcome folks, we can do better. We have to do better.
Quotes were gleaned from CNNSI.COM and author Jim Trotter

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