January 31st, 2014

NFL: Bully PR smears victim despite facts

The Miami Dolphins bullying scandal mirrors in so many ways what happens to bullied targets in corporate and government jobs.

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

Now that the target, Jonathan Martin, has finally spoken, the bully ratchets up his defense.

Richie Incognito, alleged bully (pictured on the left), who lost pay for only 2 football games and was paid to not play for the Dolphins or any other team for the remainder of the season, is going on offense.

Since most of his public behavior is indefensible — racial slurs in text messages and drunken rants caught on camera — his PR advisers are attacking Martin. Always blame/attack the victim. He claims Martin gave as good as he got. Remember bullies are believed; bullied targets are not believed.

The Big Lie: the relationship between Martin and Incognito was “friendship.” Friends are equals. Friends care about each other. Friends respect one another. Friends don’t abuse. Friends don’t exploit.

Fact: Incognito was the NFL veteran, older and supposedly wiser. Incognito was a recognized “leader” on the team, serving on the players’ Leadership Council, formed by a coach who abdicated responsibility for managing the locker room culture. Thus, the bully ran the place with impunity, free to set the tone and model misconduct as he pleased. Incognito and Martin were not equals. Martin looked to Incognito for NFL life lessons and saw a model of misconduct. Martin, with a different set of core values and life experiences, chose to not emulate Incognito.

Fact: Complaining about Incognito was futile. Complaints were routed through the Council on which Incognito sat. Just as in workplace bullying, the bully is the boss (72% of the time). So, Martin’s “failure” to specifically complain about Incognito is explained. In his own words, Martin complained vaguely about the “culture,” not naming Incognito or others. Martin did not want to “snitch.” [Tony Dungy, Martin’s interviewer, seemed to chastise Martin for not directly approaching the head coach. Martin did confirm that he spoke with other coaches. But after the interview, Dungy told another reporter that NFL coaches must create team cultures in which players feel free to share their concerns without reprisal so problems are addressed early. Dungy placed the responsibility squarely on the coaches to make it safe to approach.]

Fact: Martin (in his own words) had previously known the cohesion of an offensive line group — a team within a team — in college and fully expected that in the NFL. So, all of Martin’s decisions in his rookie year were aimed toward inclusion, being part of a tight-knit group. The trouble was the leader of that group, Incognito, was in place, and he did not practice off-field standards with which Martin was familiar at Stanford. Incognito had been kicked off college and pro teams for crossing the line. Martin rightfully expected standards in the Miami Dolphins locker room to match or exceed his positive experiences at Stanford. Wow. What shock to find the juvenile, morally deficient Incognito running the show. Martin said repeatedly he wanted to be part of the O-Line group and sought to bond with them because he was historically safe doing this. Sadly, this dependency made him vulnerable to exploitation. The needier party in a relationship yields power to the uncaring or indifferent party.

Fact: Martin was tolerant and patient. He accepted the barbs that accompany rookie status. However, the off-field abuse continued in his second year. Incognito had found his target and did not stop, even in Martin’s second year. The accumulation of insults and personal family attacks convinced Martin to draw the line that he kept to himself. That line was crossed in October 2013 after four regular season games had been played. It is not that Martin was thin-skinned. Between the lines on the field, he was as aggressive as expected. But even the tough guy had reached his limit.

Fact: Martin refused to fight Incognito. What good would it have done given Incognito’s status on the team and his value to coaches. Ironic that Jeff Ireland, the Dolphin’s general manager, who had suggested that Martin should have simply decked Incognito, was fired by the owner after the 2013 season. Note that Richard Sherman also refused to fight. Neither Martin or Sherman are less manly or less “NFL” for not fighting. Both take the higher moral ground. Rabid fans and jock pundits can’t seem to reconcile the apparent paradox — on-field aggression and violence turned off when not in “game mode.”

Despite these Facts, Incognito’s public relations blitz might succeed in America where reverence for the NFL combines our worst national traits — a penchant for victim denigration and a bloodlust that doesn’t want to “soften” football to make the game safer for players.


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This entry was posted on Friday, January 31st, 2014 at 10:46 am and is filed under NFL: Jonathan Martin, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education. 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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