By Ken Reed

It appears that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito is the classic bully. Moreover, his behavior has been enabled by coaches throughout high school, college and the NFL because he’s a good football player.

Before he was suspended, Incognito was even a member of the Dolphins’ leadership council!

The rap sheet on Incognito is a long one. But he survives in the football culture because he can knock opponents on their butts. We also know now that he leaves voicemails for teammates that include the N-word, a ton of profanities and a list of threatening atrocities. Jonathan Martin, a teammate and favorite target of Incognito’s, finally had enough and left the Dolphins a few days ago.

A lot of NFL players and insiders are saying Martin was too soft and should’ve “manned up” in dealing with Incognito. That’s bunk.

“Some people say: It’s the NFL, that these are men’s men who should put up with tough stuff because they’re built that way,” writes Benjamin Hochman in The Denver Post. “I say: it’s people like them who let people like Richie Incognito get away with being Richie Incognito. Bullies are a huge problem in our culture, but so are bully sympathizers, who loom in the sports world.”

Bullying starts in our schools and is a growing problem. Sadly, suicide can be the end result.

In October, two teenage girls were charged in a bullying-suicide case in Florida involving a 12-year-old classmate. Moreover, across the United States, at least a dozen suicides in recent years have been attributed, in part, to bullying.

“The Dolphins’ mess isn’t surprising and is a reflection of what is happening, or not happening in schools and society in general,” says Jim Olmstead, director of strategic partnerships for The Foundation for Character Development, an organization that helps schools deal with their bullying problems.

The Incognito/Martin case is certainly sad. But sadder still is the reality that young adolescents are taking their lives in this country because bullies aren’t being effectively dealt with.

“I haven’t seen too many schools/districts take the necessary steps,” says Olmstead.

“I think many are worried about reputation, cost to address the issue, etc., more than they are worried about the kids. Too many schools are only doing the bare basics and then sweeping it under the rug. Which is what the Dolphins have been doing it appears. But we can see now it eventually comes back to bite them.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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