Yesterday, the final report was released on the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin harassment case, providing details of what was said, what was done and the personal and emotional torture that Martin was exposed to while a member of the Dolphins. This issue has hit close to home for me, not just because of the shocking and disgusting comments and abuse that Martin went through, but because I can relate somewhat to what Martin went through. I will expand on that a bit later but for now, some background.
For those that have not followed this issue, the harassment began in 2012 when Jonathan Martin was a rookie, and it eventually became normal behavior that quickly escalated and blew up in their faces. The report accuses not only Richie incognito, but also names center Mike Pouncey, guard John Jerry, and OL Coach Jim Turner as also harassing Martin. They subjected Martin to vulgar insults, humiliation, and downright disgusting behavior. After reading all of what was done to him, I find myself wondering how many more locker rooms across the NFL this goes on, and if there are any pieces in place to prevent it, report it, or to monitor the behavior that goes on behind the scenes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not naive, nor do I believe that a professional NFL locker room resembles a Sunday night church social, but these guys are supposed to be professionals, they are supposed to be beyond this type of behavior, and if you are trying to win a championship in a professional sport this atmosphere does nothing to promote the environment needed to be a cohesive unit. I blame the coaching staff, from the trainers all the way to the head coach for not seeing the signs, for not being aware of what was going on (or just plain ignoring it) and for not being proactive to stop it. I have heard a lot of former players recently both here and Tampa and around the league blow it off and say things like, “you have to understand the culture in an NFL locker room” and they call Martin “weak” because he wasn’t man enough to stand up for himself, but not to piss in their corn flakes, but these comments do nothing but enable future Incognito’s and Pouncey’s to do the same to other players in the future.
I have been a victim of bullying all of my life, beginning with my father, all through elementary, middle, and high school, and for those that have not experienced it, you don’t understand what this does to someone. Martin showed all the signs, he wanted to be liked, he called himself a “pushover’ a “people pleaser” and he avoided confrontation in order for people to like him. he withdrew into his own little world, a cocoon of some sorts, to shield himself from the insults, to protect him from the abuse, and all that did was drive him deeper and deeper into depression and suicidal thoughts. When you are bullied, picked on, harassed, abused, whatever you want to call it, it drives your self-esteem so far into the gutter there never seems to be a road that you can take to pick yourself up and get out of it, and if you don’t seek and find help, it will drive you insane.
I have dealt with depression all of my life, and the fact that I have been bullied for most of it is part of the reason for my depression. I am better now, and I feel I am a better man because of my struggle. There are days when I still have to tell myself that I am not a “wimp” or “weak” because I know that it wasn’t my fault for how others acted towards me, but it is difficult, when all you have known is abuse, that somehow there is something wrong with you to be singled out for others attacks. Bullies like Incognito and Pouncey are the ones that have issues. They feel that they have to be bullies because of their personal or emotional shortcomings as a person, and by bullying people they believe they will feel better about themselves. They are pathetic human beings, they have no soul, and they only have one way of dealing with their insecurities, and that’s by taking it out on someone they deem as safe targets for their anger. Until someone stands up to them, they will continue to do what it is they do, demeaning other individuals, and they will be the spark that will eventually cause the targets of their abuse to go over the edge into a hole that they can never crawl out of.
In closing, let me just say this.. If you are a victim of bullying, don’t stand by and allow it to happen, tell someone, whether it be a teacher, a coach, a parent, or someone that you can trust to find the help or to handle the situation and stop it. Don’t allow it to define who you are on the inside, because the sooner you realize that it isn’t your fault, that you aren’t the problem, the better you will be able to handle it. If you see someone being bullied, don’t stand on the sidelines with blinders on, because if you do, then you are also enabling this to happen, and that makes you just as bad as the bullies themselves. Get the person help, stand up for them, and lift them up out of the hole if they are not able to lift themselves up. As for you bullies out there, all I have to say is get over yourself, stop being an ass, and treat others as you would want to be treated. Remember this, Jonathan Martin is listed as 6’6” tall and 312 pounds, if he can be a victim of bullying, just think how vulnerable the ones that are 5’5” and 104 pounds are affected by it. there is no place for it, whether it be on a school playground, an office, or an NFL locker room.
If you want to read the entire report put out by Ted Wells on this situation, it can be found HERE.