March 3rd, 2014

NYT Editors: NFL begins to wake up


From the Editorial Board of the New York Times, March 1, 2014

Last year’s National Football League season was tainted by on-field racial slurs and the bullying of a Miami Dolphins player. Of course, professional football players operate in an emotional, intensely competitive and physically punishing environment. It is obviously not your normal workplace. But, as employees, there is no reason they should be immune from modern standards of workplace conduct.

Professional football seems to know it has a problem. Over the weekend the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors diversity in the N.F.L., recommended strict consequences for players who use discriminatory language on the field, including slurs against African-Americans: The first offense would result in a 15-yard penalty; the second, in ejection.

The chairman of the alliance, John Wooten, said he expected the N.F.L. to adopt the rule in March. Although referees can already cite players for unsportsmanlike conduct, the creation of a specific infraction sends a clear message that something that may once have been overlooked is now unacceptable.

The league’s official report in the Dolphins bullying case, released last month, sends a similar message. It found that three players had “engaged in a pattern of harassment” against Jonathan Martin, who quit the team in desperation and sought psychiatric treatment. The investigators said it was “urgent that a tolerant atmosphere exist throughout the league.” That is especially relevant in light of the recent announcement by Michael Sam, an N.F.L. prospect, that he is gay and will enter the draft. The Dolphins have since fired their offensive line coach and head athletics trainer, both implicated in the report.

Creating that “tolerant atmosphere,” though, will require not just firings or other punishment but a shift in society’s expectations for athletes. Even the authors of the report made allowances, explicitly accepting that “the communications of young, brash, highly competitive football players often are vulgar and aggressive.” They added: “We did not approach this assignment expecting to discover behavior that society might anticipate in, say, an accounting firm or a law office.”

It was not so long ago that accounting firms and law offices excused sexual harassment as boys-will-be-boys high jinks. But in recent years, most workplaces have tried hard to move beyond the vulgarity and aggressiveness of the “Mad Men” days, and certainly beyond racial animosities. Locker rooms should do the same.

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Follow the full NFL story in the Category list in the sidebar: NFL: Jonathan Martin

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2014 at 10:06 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, NFL: Jonathan Martin. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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