By Ann Liguori
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What a perfect name for a bully — Incognito. And after being suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins this past Sunday for his alleged bullying behavior towards teammate Jonathan Martin, the obviously troubled Incognito needs to stay away for more than four games, perhaps forever.
To think Incognito’s alleged behavior was accepted within the Dolphins organization, perhaps even encouraged, is most troubling. Where was the leadership from other team members, coaches and ownership?
The guy just didn’t turn into a bully overnight. He’s had a history of unacceptable behavior and a reputation for being a dirty player, traits that have often been overlooked throughout his career.
This type of so-called mean-spirited, tough-guy behavior is too often overlooked and even glorified in our society, particularly in testosterone-filled locker rooms.
The NFL needs to show that they take this issue seriously and send a message to youth and adults everywhere that bullying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Bullying has become an epidemic in American schools. According to The National Crime Prevention Council, 67 percent of all students in America have reported being bullied. And that’s only because of kids like Martin, who had the courage to come forward.
Jodee Blanco, the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Please Stop Laughing at Me,” says “the fundamental issues with bullying in professional sports is that it sets an example to school bullies everywhere, especially in competitive sports, that it’s cool, that it’s OK to demean.”
“Martin is really a hero for coming forward,” suggests Blanco. “He’s not only forced the Dolphins to take stock and make changes, he’s forced Incognito to do the same thing.”
Martin sets a powerful example for kids everywhere that you have to stand up for your dignity.
“Bravo to Martin for coming forward!” exclaimed Blanco, a survivor herself of school bullying, turned activist.
Blanco went on to say that she thinks the management of the Dolphins is eerily similar to that of schools whose administrations do nothing.
Blanco speaks in schools nationwide and works with bullies and victims. In her lectures across the country, Blanco teaches students that there is a huge difference between “tattling” and “telling” on someone.
“I always tell kids that tattling hurts, and telling helps. Tattling is just about revenge, which is the wrong motivation to report abuse. Telling, on the other hand, is about helping both the bully and the victim because if someone is a bully, there’s often an underlying issue, and in many cases, until a victim comes forward, the bully doesn’t get the help they need.”
Here’s to Martin for having the courage to come forward.
And let’s hope that other athletic organizations — from the professional ranks to school athletic programs — are inspired to take action in their own locker rooms.
Follow Ann on Twitter at @annliguori
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