The NFL bullying scandal is a disgrace

The news reports on the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal is something you would hear in a junior high principal’s office. It is common place among 14 and 15-year-old children, but not something you hear about with grown men who are paid millions of dollars each year.

It’s as sad as it is unusual.

When offensive lineman Jonathon Martin left the Dolphins before the team’s Oct. 31 game against the Bengals, the coaches didn’t even know why. Slowly, reports of locker room bullying surfaced as the reason for his sudden departure from the team. That’s when Martin started to be portrayed as “not tough enough” for the rough and tumble NFL.

“You pull pranks nonstop in the locker room,” said Joe Rose, a former Dolphins tight end who’s now a local radio host. “You know they’re going to do stuff to you, you give it back. It’s part of camaraderie, part of being with your group.”

Why is our first reaction as a society to blame the victim? Because Martin is 6-foot-5 and north of 300 pounds, he is immune to bullying?

That is garbage. I’m not trying to sound like Dr. Phil, but everyone has feelings, no matter their size or age. Everyone wants to be accepted. Everyone wants to feel like they have a place. Anyone can be bullied no matter how big or how strong they may be. To characterize Martin as a baby because he succumbed to the pressure is irresponsible and wrong.

I was never seriously bullied as a kid, but I remember the random taunts and comments I received. They hurt and have remained with me to this day. Am I emotionally scarred? Not in the least. But others aren’t so lucky. Bullying can be hurtful and even deadly. Yes, deadly. It’s not a comfortable topic, but some reach the point where the only way out is suicide.

It’s sad, disgraceful and a real problem in today’s society.

So how wrong is it for a former NFL player like Rose to try to put the blame on Martin? I just don’t understand it.

That brings me to the perpetuator of the bullying, fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito. Since Incognito was not a household name prior to this incident let me shed some light on what a class act this guy is.

His college career ended when he dropped out of Nebraska after being charged with three counts of assault. He then transferred to Oregon on the condition that he complete an anger-management course and adhere to a strict code of conduct. Incognito violated those terms before the first practice. For four years in the NFL, he led the league in unnecessary roughness penalties and was released by the Rams after clashing with the head coach. Then last year, he was voted by his peers as the league’s second dirtiest player in a poll conducted by Sporting News.

Only a guy like Incognito could send a teammate a voicemail filled with so much hate.

According to NFL.com, Incognito allegedly told Martin, “Hey, wassup, you half [expletive] piece of [expletive]. … I’m gonna slap your real mother across the face. [Expletive] you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

Incognito is the lowest of low in society. He has been suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins, and I hope he never plays another down in the NFL. Who would want someone like that on your team? He’s a cancer and needs to pay the ultimate price for his actions. To think Rose and other former players chalked this situation up to nothing more than a normal occurrence, it makes me sick.

I hope Martin comes back from this and plays a long time in the NFL. I also hope other NFL teams learned from this and keep an eye on bullying in their own locker room.

I have no doubt Incognito will get his. And when it comes it will be much deserved. Karma is a beautiful thing.

Alex Ross is a senior sports communication major from Fishers, Ind. He is the Scout sports editor.

Direct comments, questions and other responses to agross@mail.bradley.edu.