Last season Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin disclosed he’d been the victim of bullying by a group of teammates acting under the direction of fellow lineman Richie Incognito. In early November Incognito was suspended for the remainder of the season by the NFL and informed he’d have to petition for his return to the league. Personna non grata in Miami, this season Incognito will play for the Oakland Raiders.
The suspension was issued before an investigation disclosed that a Japanese trainer with the team was the subject of racial slurs, while other players also claimed to have been harrassed.
On the surface it’s easy to ask how a 300 pound offensive lineman can be bullied without at least defending himself but in the NFL culture players, particularly younger ones, are afraid to jeopardize their status by retaliating against established team leaders. Also on the surface it’s easy to praise the NFL for it’s suspension of Incognito, but the NFL’s nobility only goes so far and the Martin-Incognito case is actually part of a more problematic culture to which the NFL contributes.
Yesterday the Minnesota Twins cancelled plans to induct former second baseman Chuck Knoblauch into their hall of fame next month following his arrest for assaulting his ex wife. It’s the second such arrest for Knoblauch, who served a one year probation for his conviction of assaulting a previous wife.
Also yesterday two University of Texas football players were arrested and charged with felony assault after a female student charged they raped her in a campus dorm room last month. The two have been suspended by the team.
Stories about NFL linemen assaulting wives and girlfriends a third their size are all too frequent as a culture that shows little respect for women seems to exist in the testosterone driven world of elite level sports. The NFL did little to address the situation yesterday when it suspended Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games over his off season arrest on a domestic abuse charge in the face of casino videos that showed him dragging his seemingly unconcious wife from an elevator.
Bullying teammates shouldn’t be tolerated, but when a league assesses greater, and swifter, sanctions on players who bully teammates than on players who physically abuse women it’s no wonder the problem appears to be running rampant.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.