Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

November 17, 2013

LINDLEY: NFL needs to shed light on bullying scandal

Incognito and Martin situation focuses attention on NFL work environment.

It’s difficult to make much sense of the actions in the Miami Dolphins locker room because it’s a culture most of us don’t understand and can’t comprehend.

The players are different from us: They’re bigger, faster, richer, more celebrated, more condemned, more confident, more insecure than the couple down the street or the person who sits across from us at work.

We know them, but they don’t know us.

That leads us to people like Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Both are big, imposing men. Incognito stands 6-foot-3, 319 pounds. Martin, equally imposing at 6-5, 312 pounds.

Is one a bully? Was one bullied?

At first, their size doesn’t seem to fit the stereotype of a bully, one where a bigger person picks on a smaller one. Yet, bullying is as much a mental attack as it is physical. Assessing blame is hard to determine. Besides, how can someone on the outside tell what’s happening inside a team complex? You can’t.

But that’s not the case with Miami Dolphins. It’s the responsibility of everyone from the team president to the general manager to the coach to know what’s happening on their property. That was not the case.

Now someone is going to pay the price. There’s a jocularity around a locker room; it’s part of the team-building process. But if you read from the heavily-edited electronic exchanges between Incognito and Martin, it’s clear there was an ugliness and a message of disrespect that has no place in civil society or a competitive business environment.

This latest episode comes at a time when the National Football League is ill-prepared to confront another public relations debacle. Concussion issues have both immediate and long-range implications. The NFL doesn’t test for Human Growth Hormones, yet its players are behemoths. Players getting arrested are a reoccurring story across the league, none worse than the murder charge former New England star Aaron Hernandez is facing.

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