Jonathan Martin, the 6-foot-5-inch, 312-pound Miami Dolphin offensive lineman who left the NFL team because he was being bullied by at least one other player, has done a favor for school kids everywhere.
How can such a big guy get bullied? Because bullying behavior isn’t about physical intimidation. It’s about mind control and creating fear — and no one, not even very large professional athletes — are immune. That’s a useful message for kids and adults working to create safe climates at their schools.
So is the way Martin ultimately handled his problem. After many months of being a victim, he got up, walked away and later accused the Dolphins of creating and allowing an unsafe work environment. He is forcing the powers that be to take a look at the problem. As my Post colleague Sally Jenkins wrote in this column:
Turns out the real tough guy is Martin, whose decision to rebel against a vicious culture in the Dolphins’ locker room has triggered a league-level investigation of [suspended Dolphin Richie] Incognito, and, if reports are true, needs to extend to other veteran players and management as well.
In schools, the programs that work best in combating bullying are those that teach kids that they can’t stand by and watch bullies go after other students. Bystanders have to get help — and everybody in the school, adults included — have to be on the same page. That didn’t happen in Miami.
While Incognito was suspended for bullying Martin — including sending racially insensitive and profane phone and text messages to Martin — he wasn’t the only Dolphin at fault. In fact, other Dolphins were said to have participated in some bullying. And this story in the Orlando Sentinel says that Incognito was actually asked by Dolphin coaches last spring to “toughen up” Martin and that Incognito took the assignment too far.
In fact a number of NFL players have come out either saying that Martin was just as much at fault as Incognito for putting up with the bullying for so long, or saying that Incognito’s action were part of the league’s culture, showing that for all of the anti-bullying programs and anti-bullying laws and anti-bullying websites and anti-bullying events, the problem still isn’t understood or taken seriously enough.
Veteran Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher hit the nail on the head when he said, according to this story by my Post colleague Mark Maske, that senior players on the Dolphins squad should have been protecting young players like Martin. He said:
It’s for somebody, some veterans in that group in that locker room, to come up and step up and put a stop to that.
Martin was finally able to do it for himself. Too many kids at too many schools around the country can’t.