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Bullying should be unacceptable, even at the highest levels of competition
Nov 07, 2013 | 803 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print

BY SHAIN GILLET

Clipper Sports Editor

We’ve all heard the stories before.

One student, athlete, or a combination of the two reports being bullied by a teammate, classmate, or just another person who happens to be on school or public grounds.

People get hurt, players get suspended or are kicked off the team, and no one really wins in the end for a myriad reasons.

News of bullying reports are nonstop, and they’ve become such a part of today’s ever-evolving information world, that it will remain a problem that will never go away as long as there are those types of people in this world.

It also seems that bullying can reach above and beyond the level any of us thought it would reach: professional sports.

We’ve all heard of “hazing” cases before. While not particularly a positive word, it is used at times to pick on someone new to an area, a school, neighborhood, or what-have-you as an “initiation process” one must endure in order to be accepted into the social circle.

In the National Football League, such incidents are commonly practiced among the first year players, or “rookies,” as a right-of-passage from the college level to the NFL.

Some incidents are reported on, but typically do no harm, and only go on for the duration of Training Camp, typically lasting only a few weeks.

However, one such NFL player, Miami Dolphin lineman Richie Incognito, made the decision not only to haze a current player on the team, he did so to the point that it can be called flat out bullying.

Through numerous reports that I’ve read over the weekend, Jonathan Martin was the target of Incognito’s fury for the better part of an entire year.

From text messages to voice mails and everything in between, Martin was practically bullied by Incognito for who-knows-what since April of last year. Reports that have surfaced recently showed Incognito leaving messages full of racial slurs and offensive language that I can’t share here.

Suffice to say, none of it is worth repeating.

Since Monday, reports have also said Incognito has been suspended and will likely be cut from the team, which is only the beginning of a long process for both he and Martin.

When this type of behavior is being seen at the highest levels of competition, something has to be done. 

It’s one thing to tape someone to a goal post, leave a piece of blown up bubble gum on a hat, or light a person’s cleats on fire just to get a reaction, and a completely different issue when it involves putting someone else down for the sake of making yourself feel superior. 

Personally, I’ve never really had to deal with that situation. Being taught to walk away helps, and tuning out others who didn’t like me for their own personal reasons was something I was good at doing. 

People didn’t bother me because I didn’t care what they thought of me.

But when a professional athlete at the height of his career is taking a mental swipe at a person’s psyche, that’s the wrong kind of message you want to send.

In Martin’s case, not only did the bullying not stop, it affected both himself and Incognito. In the case of Incognito, his year-long actions could leave Martin with mental scars that may never be seen nor heard until it’s too late.

Incognito’s actions should be a telling story to many that bullying can be seen at the highest levels of competition, and even between two grown men. 

So far the right actions have been taken, but the repercussions of his actions are yet to be seen in full.

My life has been one of conveying a message using only my words. They have been a strength, sometimes a weakness, but I’ve been able to use them to tell stories both of the good and the bad.

This is one of those times where a bad story can convey a positive message, and I hope you share this with more than just this paper’s community.

sgillet@davisclipper.com



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