Until recently bullying in sports seemed non-existent, but the revelation of Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito’s harassment towards teammate Jonathan Martin has sparked controversy on what really goes on off the field.
Racial slurs, death threats, and fines from the team leader finally broke Martin. Martin said the bullying was ongoing and past the walls of the locker room and was texted in threatening tones and was forced into paying $15,000 for a trip Martin never went on.
Whatever side you choose to believe, the situation has brought to light an issue often swept under the rug. The arena of sports has long been viewed as a place of larger-than-life personalities and cartoonish antics which any workplace would not accept. The locker room, the sanctuary for athletes, is a place many do not understand, and choose not to understand.
But that does not mean things cannot change. Anyone who has spent time as part of any team realizes that there is a line between just joking around and actions which cross the line. Where that line lies is crucial, and that responsibility falls into the athletes with authority.
In the workplace, those lines are clear for the most part, due to policies that offer all a harassment-free environment. Major rules are usually easy to recognize, and carry the burden of huge consequences to those who break them.
The line is often not as definitive in the sporting world, so it is up to the coaches at a youth level to enforce the boundaries so when they get to the big leagues that line is already known. Whether that requires a change in the athletes’ culture, or just some policies that are more in line with the average job, changes are needed.
No one should have to go through what Martin did, no matter where it is at. Professional athletes, and the role models that they are to the youth of today, need to draw the line and set an example for the kids look up to them. This was exactly what should not happen in the word of sports.
Incognito, pictured here, has been accused of the harassment of fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. His behavioral problems can go back to college where he was often storming off the practice field, getting into fights, being dismissed by two universities, and being charged with assault before finally declaring he would take part in the NFL draft.