No one is immune from the sting of bullying. Not even a 6’5, 300 pound pro football player.
Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin is taking a personal leave of absence after just 1 and a half seasons with the team. Martin left Dolphins headquarters on Monday when finally reaching his limit with the persistent bullying and teasing from some teammates that has plagued him since joining Miami as a 2012 second-round draft choice. The latest taunt – a group of players stood up and left when he tried joining them for lunch – led to Martin getting up himself and walking out the door.
There is no timetable for a return, which could lead Miami to ultimately place him on the reserve/non-football injury list. It also raises questions about his future with the franchise.
This wasn’t an abrupt action by Martin, who is Stanford-educated and the son of two lawyers who attended Harvard University. A source said Martin has tried dealing with a slew of indignities that crossed into personal and family insults, including being bestowed with the nickname of “Big Weirdo.”
Transcripts of voice mail messages and text messages left for Martin by his embattled former teammate Richie Incognito also indicate a pattern of racial epithets and profane language.
According to ESPN , the following is a transcript of a voice message Incognito left for Martin in April 2013, a year after Martin was drafted:
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth. [I’m going to] slap your f—ing mouth. [I’m going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
Sources familiar with the tapes say these are terms Incognito used over time and were not isolated incidents, including the use of the racial epithet and remarks about his sexual orientation.
Incognito was suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins on Sunday night for conduct detrimental to the team. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported Monday that the team plans to cut ties with him.
This incident reveals a systemic organizational failure where veteran teammates and coaching staff neglect to police the younger players. It begs the question that always seems to creep up when men unite, should there be a crackdown on hazing? Hazing rituals are a testosterone-filled rite of passage. Athletes, fraternity men, soldiers and even musicians have to endure the school of hard knocks. But how do we prevent the hard knocks from becoming fatal blows?
Jonathan Martin made a smart choice. He put mental health before his career and decided to walk away from an NFL contract. But this story would read a lot differently if he’d made another dramatic decision and took his own life, as the victims of severe bullying often do.
I’m reminded of the 2011 Florida A&M hazing incident in which 26-year old drum major Robert Champion died in after he collapsed following what prosecutors say was a savage beating during a hazing ritual. For decades, school officials willing overlooked these “team-building” activities, until it was too late.
Same scenario here. It’s believed the Dolphins were aware that the cruel actions of some teammates toward Martin went well beyond the customary hazing sometimes given to NFL rookies and youngsters. Veteran players also apparently failed to help support Martin and draw a line as to where the bullying should end.
Diminishing ritualistic hazing will always be an uphill battle because hazing thrives in hyper-heterosexual male-dominated organizations where male leadership often backs down from policing violent behavior in order to protect their own air of masculinity. But while men are knee deep in proving their masculinity, no one is ever really “man” enough to interfere when things get out of control. The sad irony is that when macho men organize in groups, they suddenly become too weak to be the dissenting voice of reason.
Ayesha is a writer, dancer, and the founder of WomenLovePower.com, a tech-enabled brand that provides resources on charm, seduction, sacred sexuality, and feminine warfare. A self-confessed afromantic, Ayesha's first love is romantic fiction and poetry. When away from her keyboard, she enjoys New Jack Swing throwbacks, 90's sitcoms, running, sleep, and Cabernet.
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