I was at a business meeting the other day and one of my clients asked me what my thoughts were about the recent reports involving Miami Dolphin’s football player Richie Incgnito. He has been accused of obscenely harassing, bullying, and threatening a teammate and fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Jonathan Martin in the locker room, via text and voicemail, and elsewhere.
I agree with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis who said: “there is a difference between hazing and hate.” There is also a difference between positive team motivation and negative team aggression. One of my older friends is a former college football player and at lunch the other day he shared, ”In my time our definition of hazing was the rookies carrying in the equipment or dressing up funny in public.” Today I think some players and coaches have crossed the line when it comes to good team fun.”
At many of the middle schools and high schools I have spoken to about bullying and cyber bullying, social workers and counselors have shared that there seems to be a double standard regarding what is and not tolerated in the school and in the locker room (field or on the court). For some reason, society seems to think its normal behavior for coaches and team members to trash one another. . As one counselor put it, “the problem is the teasing, threats and harassment don’t seem to stay in the locker room and on the field. It finds its way in the hallways, into the classroom, on the bus and on Facebook.” This why is many social workers and counselers are beginning to speak out agains negative, disrespectful locker room behavior.
As a bully prevention specialist I see firsthand how hard many schools and parents are working. They are trying to teach their students positive behavior skills only to be struck down by sports figures and celebrities that have gotten away with their disrespectful behavior.
I am so grateful to Jonathan Martin for courageously coming forward and his willingness to take a personal leave of absence from a football team that was working toward the playoffs. Because of Martin’s willingness to speak up, he reinforced what we as bully free advocates have been driving home to every student to “SPEAK UP AGAINST BULLLYING!”
I am also appreciative to the NFL and Miami Dolphins for suspending Richie Incognito indefinitely from the team for alleged detrimental conduct pending continued investigation of the inherent issues. This helps reinforce our message to the student that if they speak up against harassment and bullying behavior that we’ve got your back.
Other football greats like Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young has said, “Great locker rooms self-police.” This message also reinforces our bully prevention message, “If you see someone being harassed verbally, physically or online you need to say something. Report it and speak up against it.” Many of the schools that I ‘ve followed up after presenting the bully prevention assembly for their students have reported that when the students follow our instructions to speak up in the hall, classroom, on the bus and online they’re helping the teacher and staff put an end to what could end up being an ongoing bullying problem.