As the 2013 NFL season comes to a close, the Miami Dolphins continue to battle for one of the few remaining playoff spots. But it’s hard not to notice the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying scandal that exploded in week eight, and the effect it will ultimately have on the teams chances.
Ask anyone their opinion about this story and you’ll most likely get a wide range of responses. To be sure, this is a polarizing story with more drama than a daytime soap-opera. There’s racial tension, millionaire athletes abusing each other and allegations of death threats via text message (yes, that actually happened).
The part of this ever unfolding narrative I’d like to focus on, however, is locker-room culture in professional sports. A friend and I were having a heated debate on how Martin (the player who was allegedly bullied) will be received when he returns to the NFL. My friend believes Martin will be booed by fans and ridiculed when he first takes the field, I disagree. I contend that the heightened awareness of bullying in the mainstream media is the reason this story got as much traction as it did. Furthermore, the mammoth machine that is the NFL will do everything in it’s power to distance itself from any negative social stigmas. Ostensibly, Jonathan Martin will be fine. How his teammates in whichever locker he ends up treat him, is another matter entirely.
As unfortunate as this whole episode was for everyone involved, there is still a culture of brotherhood and unwritten rules that exists in team sports, which Martin violated; this will forever render him an outsider. I sincerely hope Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin both get the help they need to move on from this incident and be successful in their careers. Sports is as much about mental fortitude as it is physical strength. And that will never change!!
by Mike Watkins