Commentary: Frat-Boy Mentality Led to Martin-Incognito Issue

Commentary: Frat-Boy Mentality Led to Martin-Incognito Issue

Report from arbitrator in Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito case shows how deep bullying runs through the Miami Dolphins locker room.

Published February 14, 2014

NFL teams have long had that frat-boy mentality. We’ve all heard or read about the hazing veterans do to rookies. We’ve heard it for decades now, if you happen to be a person of a certain age.

Yet we’ve lived with hazing; we’ve accepted hazing. You know how hazing goes: Hazing is that boys-will-be-boys mindset, and hazing allows everything to fall under the harmless category. Yet we’ve never known how vicious hazing is or how deep it runs.

Until now.

Thanks to the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito affair, the NFL and all the other sports teams and workplaces that permitted hazing have learned the practice runs deep into their marrow.

To be honest, hazing has always been a polite word for what Incognito and the Miami Dolphins allowed to go inside their locker room. It wasn’t hazing, not the way we’ve come to know the practice from watching too many Hollywood films and TV sitcoms about hard-drinking fraternities.

What happened in Miami was a textbook example of bullying.

We know that now from reading excerpts Friday of arbitrator Ted Wells’ report about the Dolphins and their locker room. In his report, Wells said Incognito and two other Dolphins “engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman.”

The report put to rest all the rumors that Martin had woven his tale of locker-room harassment from invisible thread. Not only was Martin telling the truth – unless Wells crafted a work of fiction of his own – but he softened his criticism in many ways.

He didn’t call out the two other bullies, whom Wells highlighted in his report. Instead, Martin just talked about his dealings with Incognito, a notorious tough guy who’s shown no empathy for ordinary souls.

Yet let’s forget about Incognito altogether. He’s of less interest to me than the culture that allowed men like him to exist. No one in the Dolphins locker room showed a willingness to challenge bullying. No one on the Dolphins coaching staff or in their front office stepped forward to say a word either.

They are as guilty as Incognito. Yet where is the outrage toward them?

Silence has never been a remedy for what happens when people bully someone else. We know that from what happened two years ago at Florida A&M and with its band. A man died there – killed because of the excesses of bullying.

As yet, the bullies in the Dolphins locker room face no criminal charges. Maybe there are no charges for them to face. But on the moral high ground that we must stand on, we condemn the culture of bullying that led to what happened to Jonathan Martin, and we expect – no, demand – the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to exact punishment that fits this kind of wrongdoing.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh

(Photo: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Written by Justice B. Hill


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