The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly


Stephen Straub:

Imagine, if it pleases you, that you work your dream job out of college. This is the job that you’ve wanted since you were a child. Your passion dictated the school you went to. This dream job absorbs your life. Your body, mind and spirit are put to the test regularly, but a company sought you out and chose you because of your abilities.

Now I’d like to present a problem. Your education, your demeanor, your upbringing, your way of living brings discomfort among your co-workers. The unfamiliar unsettles them. You’re perceived as unfit for the job because of your differences in personality. Your manager goes to your older co-worker, and encourages the veteran to toughen you up.

Your co-worker chides you, makes biting remarks that cut to the core of your character. Your stellar education becomes a point of contention; the co-worker calls you a snob. Your race becomes a source of a joke. Your discomfort in confrontation makes you appear weak in the eyes of your co-workers. Co-workers openly question your sexuality, assuming there’s a hierarchy (man, woman, gay).

On social media, your co-worker addresses you in a derogatory manner, like “fatty,” “weirdo,” and stronger words. On your voicemail, your co-worker threatens to “slap your real mother across the face.” The co-worker threatens to kill you.

One day, you grab some lunch and join a table with your co-workers. As a prank, without a word, your co-workers stand up and leave you at the table. You’ve had enough. You walk out of the cafeteria and quit your dream job.

This is a summary of the life of 24-year old Jonathan Martin, former offensive lineman of the Miami Dolphins. After graduating with a degree in Classics from Stanford, he endured this form of bullying for two years, mostly at the hands of 30-year old Richie Incognito. The Miami Dolphins locker room is no exception to the rampant bullying culture in the NFL, but the news has brought this culture to the light.

Throughout its history, the NFL has had a militaristic philosophy. Players are going to war. They fight the enemy. They paint their faces. They put marks on particular players to strategically take the opponent down. This philosophy accomplishes the same goal that the military had, to reduce their human enemies to mere targets.

The implications of this situation resonate on many levels with respect to heteronormativity, race relations and the perceived sports culture in the United States. The grandest perception of all is that these strong male athletes cannot have emotions, or that mental disease or emotional disorders equal weakness. This is particularly troublesome in a sport with an ongoing problem of retired NFL players suffering from brain trauma and a high suicide rate. Such a great and perceived tough player like linebacker Junior Seau shot himself twice in the chest with a shotgun with no note. These problems will only be exacerbated if the NFL does not address them.

One would think that fans, coaches and journalists would unanimously stand behind someone who identifies as a victim of bullying. What’s more appalling than the bullying is the sports community’s response, almost defense of bullying culture. They found reason to defend a bully who sent racist and homophobic messages regularly. They defended someone who reduced a student athlete with a family lineage that can trace back to one of the first African Americans at Harvard University, as a “half n***** piece of shit.” How different would the response be if it were the African American Martin who bullied the white Incognito?

Almost any online article is followed by a trite, grammatically incorrect comment like “we’ave (sic) become a nation of wimps.” The assumption that we’re becoming a nation of wimps needs to be changed to the fact that we are a nation of trauma that allows military norms to infiltrate and dictate our lives.

The bravest souls in the world, Internet thugs on Twitter, leave a stream of comments effeminizing Martin, like “Martin pees sitting down.” Sports journalists label Martin as “soft” and accuse him of using the wrong channels to voice his complaint. Bullying victims have difficulties finding the right people to talk to.

“This is how players get motivated,” sounds as absurd as the adage, “Boys will be boys.” Harassment is not the best way to inspire and strengthen anyone. Intimidation and threats do not foster excellence. Just ask my Miami Dolphins, sporting a mediocre 5-5 record. Even if we became a “nation of wimps,” what would be the consequence of an emotionally open and sensitive society? Dialogue? Acceptance? Heaven forbid.

Ross Boehme:

Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito is accused of bullying teammate Jonathan Martin. As a member of the team’s so-called “leadership council,” Incognito was asked by coaches to toughen Martin up. The accused sent his teammate voice mails and text messages full of threats and racial slurs. Here’s an example:

“Hey, wassup, you half-n***** piece of shit. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] shit in your fucking mouth. [I’m going to] slap your fucking mouth. [I’m going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. Fuck you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

On Oct. 30, Martin left the team citing “emotional reasons.” On Nov. 3 , Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Details of the situation continue to unravel as the Players Association continues its investigation. In the meantime, the response of NFL personnel offers an intriguing insight into the league’s culture.

An anonymous ESPN survey says that most players aren’t OK with what Richie Incognito did. However, few players have put their names behind the idea that Martin handled the situation properly. A notable exception is Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who says that by refusing a physical fight Martin was “being a man.”

It seems the majority of NFL personnel wanted a confrontational settling between Martin and Incognito. In a phone call with Martin’s agent, Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland suggested that
Martin “physically confront” his bully. Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter interviewed a group of anonymous NFLers who, while not defending Incognito, agreed that Martin was a coward.
One said: “I think Jonathan Martin is a weak person. If Incognito did offend him racially, that’s something you have to handle as a man.” Said another: “You handle it in house — fight, handle it on the field, joke about it, etc. — and keep it moving.” Another said: “Locker room culture will never be understood unless you’ve lived or have been around it.”

I have neither lived in nor been around NFL locker room culture. I don’t know the mindset necessary to damage another person for a living. I don’t know the stress of appeasing men who are constantly trying to replace you. However, I can’t understand any justification of a culture where teammates threaten each other in the crudest of terms and solve issues by punching each other in the face. It’s not about being a man, or a woman, or a teammate, but about realizing what a nurturing environment is for a human being. According to the responses of NFL personnel, the league seems to do a better job of nurturing a Richie Incognito than a Jonathan Martin.

In an ideal world, the NFL could define the gray area between harmless pranks and hurtful bullying. More realistically, these apparent paragons of human strength could stop blaming the victim and reflect on a culture where a “leader” believes threats and racial slurs are necessary.

Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall has offered the most thoughtful response so far:

“You can’t show that you’re hurt, you can’t show any pain… What’s going on in Miami goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking. Maybe have some group sessions where guys sit down and maybe talk about what’s going on off the field or what’s going on in the building and not mask everything. Because the longer it goes untreated, the worse it gets.”

The rest of the NFL needs to step up.

View Comments (3)
More to Discover

Comments (3)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • L

    Lily OgdenSep 12, 2019 at 1:35 am

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Cheers!

  • P

    Penelope NashSep 10, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am truly impressed to read everthing at alone place.

  • W

    Wanda JohnstonSep 7, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Really enjoyed this update, is there any way I can receive an alert email when you make a fresh update?