The Non-Stop Bullying Epidemic in Sports

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When you tease somebody, do you really think it will lead to tragic results? Well bullying somebody might just do that and it occurs more often than not. Many people think they’re not hurting people with comments that they may not even mean in an offensive way but others take it differently. It’s always important to be smart with your words and always think about others. But coaches and players do not follow the right concept.

Three coaches at major programs have either been suspended or fired in previous years. Also, this past month, a bullying scandal on the Miami Dolphins has rocked the sports world which leads to the question where does this come from?
Well, it starts with educating our youth in a positive aspect and make sure they’re being out of harm’s way. However, teachers aren’t being there for their students which results in problems that may escalate. According to DoSomething.org, which encourages young people to create their own vision for their community, reported that “one out of four teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene four percent of the time.” If we want bullying to stop, we need more teachers to be there for students.

In 2010, the Anti- Bullying Bill of Rights was passed by Congress in response to the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a college freshman who attended Rutgers University. According to NJ news, he was caught on video with a guy. The video was set up by his roommate and then went viral. After the cyberbullying, he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.
Bullying is bad enough in the classroom. People become bullies to either get attention or for the amusement of themselves which may be caused by mental problems. For example, the pressure of fitting in a group is hard for everybody, but don’t go along with something you know is wrong which includes bullying. The problem is that people don’t understand what they’re saying is hurting others and they may not mean it. But how does it affect sports—an environment where toughness, discipline and strength are often pre-requisites for success. Well here, too, there are apparently some—coaches and players—who either don’t understand the harm that bullying can cause or don’t care.

In 2013, three coaches have been either suspended or fired from their schools for abusive behavior. The coaches include Mike Rice, Brian Brecht and Paige Smith.

Mike Rice was the Rutgers University Basketball coach and was fired after a video leaked of his abusive behavior towards his players, which included throwing basketballs at them. Rutgers lacrosse coach, Brian Brecht was suspended for abusive behavior towards his players which included an extensive amount of cursing that created a bad atmosphere. Paige Smith a softball coach at Seton Hall was also suspended for abusive behavior which included putting sports over academics. “Bullying continues to plague many school campuses and is having a lifelong effect on those who are targeted”, according to Head Coach of Basketball, Klint Pleasant of Rochester College after speaking to Rochester news. “We have had players on our team here at RC express past experiences with being bullied, so it is a sensitive topic even for college students.”
“I know that bullying can be a real problem both physically and now even through social media. I hope we can do our part in spreading the word about how hurtful it can be. Hurting someone that is weaker than you is not power, it is actually a sign of being a coward. We stressed that real power is having the ability to harm someone, and then not harming him or her. We also stressed the importance of being a good friend and not being an ‘on looker’, but helping out victims.”

It’s not just coaches of course. One prime example of bullying in sports was recently uncovered and it involved the players themselves. An offensive lineman from the Miami Dolphins, Jonathan Martin abruptly left the team during a lunch with teammates and it was reported that continued harassment had led to his departure from the team. It was later revealed that Martin’s fellow offensive lineman, Richie Incognito, was behind the harassment. As time went on, more and more evidence against Incognito started to pile up. There was a report by ESPN that Incognito had forced Martin to dish out $15,000 for a trip to Las Vegas that Martin did not even go on. The most incriminating evidence was a voicemail left on Martin’s cell phone from Incognito from April 2013. The message was very profane and threatening. Incognito used a racial slur to describe Martin’s ethnic background. Because Martin is bi-racial, some said that this was the cause of the harassment. Incognito was indefinitely suspended by the Dolphins within hours after the voicemail was released.

Reporters and analysts hypothesized that some players didn’t consider him to be as “black” as other African American because of his parents and education. Martin’s parents are both Harvard graduates and Martin played football and studied at Stanford University. According to the Miami Herald, players have said they considered Incognito more “black” than Martin is. One player went as far to tell The Herald’s Armando Salguero that “Richie is honorary.” An unnamed Stanford alum told FOXSports.com columnist, Coy Wire, who also played football at Stanford, that “There is a culture in the NFL that is hard to break into. If you don’t fit into the mold, and the culture in the locker room, you won’t last. You do get a lot of respect [being from Stanford] because of your perceived intelligence, but you have to overcome a stigma that you may not be tough enough. Sometimes in a gladiator sport like football, intelligence can be perceived as being soft.” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith also weighed in, saying that “the most alarming aspect of this fiasco” is the fact Jonathan Martin is being perceived as less “black” than others because of personality differences.

More controversy was uncovered when a couple of Dolphins team sources told the Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly that the Dolphins coaching staff could have played a role in this as well. The voicemail left by Incognito in April occurred after Martin had missed two days of voluntary practices in April. The coaching staff supposedly wanted to “toughen Martin up” and asked Incognito to help. When that report came out, the Dolphins were questioned as to why they picked Incognito. Incognito does not have a good reputation around the NFL he was voted the league’s dirtiest player in 2009. More questions surrounding the case will be answered as the NFL’s investigation continues. Martin has said that he wishes to continue playing football, but is ineligible to play the rest of 2013 and will sit out the remainder of the season. He also said he doesn’t plan on returning to Miami.

The ritual of hazing rookies has been around as long as we can remember, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. Making them pay for a team dinner or carrying other players’ equipment for them is fine, at least in the eyes of former NFL head coach Herm Edwards, but not everyone handles bullying the same way. A lot of bullies don’t really know or care when they’ve crossed the line and that’s when the victims will act on their own. As a society, we can only hope that most victims of bullying will act as Jonathan Martin did and just walk away, but that sometimes is not the case and it ends in a tragedy, as with the case that inspired the 2011 law. That’s why there has been such an emphasis put on what to do if we see someone getting harassed. This also shows that bullying has the power to have an effect on some of the perceived toughest guys in the world.

“I’ve never been on a team or been part of a team where there wasn’t respect among the players — amongst themselves in the locker room — the staff amongst themselves, the players respecting the coaches and the coaches respecting the players,” said Miami Dolphins Coach, Joe Philbin to ESPN. “If you don’t have that in this league, or Pop Warner, or high school or college, you don’t have a chance.”

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