Bullying is just as wrong in the NFL as it is in middle school


Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, left, and tackle Jonathan Martin stand on the field during a July team practice. Incognito has been removed from the team after accusations that he bullied his younger teammate. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)
November 13, 2013

Bullies have always been found in schools and on playgrounds. But now it seems they are in the National Football League (NFL), too.

You might have heard that Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left his team because of the way some of his teammates treated him. It has been reported that Dolphins all-pro offensive lineman Richie Incognito and maybe other players made fun of Martin and called him “Big Weirdo” and much meaner names. They also threatened him and made him and some Miami rookies — Martin is in his second year — pay for expensive meals for the older players.

The Dolphins removed Incognito from the team. The NFL is investigating the incident. That’s good, because there is a lot we don’t know about this strange situation.

For example, some Dolphins players say that Incognito is a good teammate. Incognito said he was Martin’s friend. It has been reported that Incognito’s teasing was meant to help toughen up Martin for the NFL.

There is always some teasing and joking between friends and teammates. But when a player — whether in the NFL or on a kids team — repeatedly does things that embarrass or hurt a teammate’s feelings, he is not being a good teammate. He’s being a bully.

Good teammates stay positive and lead by example. They encourage their teammates to do their best instead of putting them down and making fun of them.

It has always seemed to me that when someone on a team or the playground is tearing someone down, it is really a sneaky way of saying, “I’m better than you.”

A good teammate can point out mistakes and give a new teammate advice. But a good teammate will always make her teammates feel like equals. After all, the object of any team is for all the players to play their best. That will give the team the best chance of winning games. But that’s not the way the older Miami players treated the Dolphins rookies and younger players.

What is disappointing and a bad example for kids is that it appears that no one on the Dolphins stepped in to help Martin. No one told Incognito to back off and give the younger player a break. In other words, no one stood up to the bully.

So often, sports fans talk about athletes as being heroes or role models for kids. But it doesn’t seem there were many heroes or role models in the Dolphins’ locker room.

Just a lot of bullies.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for the KidsPost. He is also the author of 19 sports books for kids. His latest is “Perfect Game.”

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