By Paula Maloney, She's Game Sports
Bullying is often referred to as " gateway behavior" which can often lead to serious and sinister crimes . As a society, we have become rather programmed into thinking that bullying occurs solely in the halls of junior and senior high school. Think again.
The locker room of the Miami Dolphin's football team is taking center stage in the eyes of many for what is unfolding as a pathetic and sordid case of bullying and harassment.
The issue at hand is simple: Is this form of aggression, hostility, and threatening behavior exhibited by Miami Dolphin left guard Richie Incognito acceptable? Was the handwriting on the wall during his college playing years where he was briefly considered as a contender for the Remington Trophy, the award designated for the nation's top collegiate center?
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin finally handed down a suspension late Sunday night in regards to the alleged harassment Incognito has been exhibiting towards teammate Jonathon Martin. Are Philbin and the Dolphins organization responsible for this egregious form of workplace misconduct? Or did they encourage it?
Martin, a 6'5" 319 lb product of Stanford University, was switched off left tackle before the Patriots game last month. It is alleged that Martin has been the target of hazing and racial slurs led by Incognito. A transcript released suggests that Martin was physically threatened as Incognito bragged that " I will kill you " in addition to hitting up Martin to pay for extravagant dinners and hotels. Voicemail messages have indicated that Incognito made racial assuages in the direction of Martin's mother. Was Martin a victim lying in wait for the likes of Incognito who has the earmarkings of a textbook bully?
And just who is Richie Incognito?
Incognito came to be recognized on a national level as an offensive lineman while playing for the University of Nebraska. In 2003, Incognito was suspended for unspecified reasons and in 2004 was handed his second suspension for three counts of assault while at a party and repeated violations of team misconduct. He was picked up by the University of Oregon only to be let go as he failed to complete an anger-management course and follow the rules and regulations that were in place.
"His inability to control his emotions on and off the field is such a significant concern that he will likely slip in later rounds of the draft," stated the scouts at ESPN. Hindsight is 20/20 but the first half of this comment speaks volumes about to the traits he was openly exhibiting.
The St. Louis Rams picked up Incognito in late 2005, where he played for four seasons. He was regarded as one the NFL's dirtiest players. During that time he incurred nearly 40 penalties and several unnecessary roughness calls setting a benchmark for misconducts during that time span. He has the honor of being on a small list of pro football players deemed "DNC" or the proverbial " do not consider list" when rounding out team rosters.
Following a stint with the Buffalo Bills, Incognito was picked up by the Miami Dolphins to beef up their offensive line.
Incredulous to me is the fact that this big mouth, Pro Bowl lineman was elected to the Dolphin's Player's Council in 2010 to be a voice for his team peers. Some of Incognito's teammates have come to his defense over the last few days, adding more fuel to the debate.
"If you asked Jon Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would have said Richie Incognito," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said yesterday to a throng of reporters after practice.
That statement is hard to believe, given what we know about Incognito's voice mails and texts to Martin, not to mention the money he allegedly extorted.
The last time the word incognito received warranted airtime was when Google announced the "incognito mode" for private browsing. No doubt the Dolphin's organization wishes that the private browsing's and infantile behavior of the locker room were not made public. Perhaps this case will highlight that bullying occurs in all aspects and walks of life, and it is not acceptable in any forum- be it junior high or pro football.
I am well aware that strong personalities prevail among alpha males playing football. The "boys will be boys" mentality is as old as the game. Incognito, with his unsurpassed history of violations, may have handed himself the proverbial pink slip. Martin is currently seeking treatment and questions linger as to why his teammates and others did not intervene.
This cancer known as bullying needs to be dealt with in a swift manner before it spreads. The current culture of the NFL is troubling and needs to be exposed to its core.
The NFL is the most powerful league in the world of sports. It has championed many causes. The investigators better get this one right, because what Richie Incognito did was all wrong.
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