Everyone loses in bullying
By Shawn Gakhal
When news of Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito’s, 30, bullying antics of fellow guard and teammate Jonathan Martin, 24, broke last month, a groundswell of shock and disdain swept through the NFL and seeped into the public conscious, as well.
Incognito was accused of sending troubling and racially charged text messages to Martin, even going as far as leaving a disturbing voicemail for Martin, threatening him and his family.
“This has all happened before.” “It’s nothing new.” “He’s a NFL player. He should take it like a man.” This is what the little support for Incognito looked like from the NFL community.
This isn’t to say all the current and former NFL players condoned this type of behavior, but this particular brand of niche support from fellow players, retroactively, attempted to soften the heinous actions of one Richie Incognito.
Nicholas F. Hartley, a junior student in the PsyD program and adjunct professor at Roosevelt University, spoke of a likely reason why Martin waited before telling team authorities of the bullying.
“Characteristically, victims of bullying generally don’t have much self-esteem,” Hartley said. “Most victims feel like if they tell or report it, that they’re going to be thought of as weak and a detriment to the team.”
The thought of bullying weighs in on the coaching minds at Roosevelt.
Take Coach Robyn Sherr-Wells, of the women’s Lakers basketball team, for example.
She talked about the responsibility of handling bullying in a delicate manner.
“Speaking from my experience here at Roosevelt as head coach, while you certainly don’t know everything that’s going on behind the scenes, I feel like it’s my responsibility to have a good beat on what’s going on our team,” Sherr-Wells said.
The bonds built through team sports are especially meaningful. Typically, players form walls to outside pressures, keeping everything in the locker room, where phrases like, “We need to settle this in-house,” and “We’re one big family,” are all too familiar.
Hartley spoke to the motivation for Incognito’s teammates to back him up in this situation.
“We get a bystander effect,” Hartley said. “Those who are observing it likely are friends with Incognito, and they don’t want to be ostracized themselves. … Maybe they’re afraid of it [bullying] coming back to them, so they’re kind of siding with the sentiment of, ‘Be a man. Stand up for yourself. This is the NFL.’”
It’s well known that hazing is now rampant in many team sports. It transpires in high schools and colleges around the country and yes, even bleeds into the professional sports.
This isn’t a revelation, though. Incognito’s malicious treatment of Martin seemed barbaric and exposed the underbelly of what bullying can do to professional players in a workplace environment.
However, these ignorant types of actions seem almost implausible, as we are in the year 2013.
Though shocking as the predicament may seem, Wells says the key to combatting bullying is prevention.
“The best way to keep it from happening is taking a stance before it ever happens,” Wells said. “And making sure that you’re clear about what type of environment you want to have on your team.”