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When we think of bullies we usually think of kids, mostly teenagers.
But, adult bullying is real and was made plain this week with the story of Miami dolphins teammates Incognito and Martin; one accusing the other of bullying him to the point where he felt compelled to leave the team and seek therapy.
The Miami Sentinel is reporting multiple sources as saying that some of the team coaches not only condoned the activity but asked Richie Incognito to toughen up Jonathan Martin.
The league is now hiring a special counsel to investigate the Miami Dolphins.
That is good.
The initial response from many was that Martin is a big boy in a rough and tumble business where men are expected to act like men, not boys, and defend themselves.
But, bullies can come in all shapes and sizes, including a 6-foot-3, 320-pound professional football guard named Richie Incognito.
Victims of bullies can come in all shapes in sizes, including a 6-foot-5, 315-pound professional football guard named Jonathan Martin.
And if the accusations are indeed true, if they are true because this is just the initial part of the investigation; we have to let the story play out. If it’s true for Incognito and for the team, then there was a conspiracy that went far beyond bullying into harassment.
Psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh says its emotional abuse and we do it all the time in our most intimate relationships.
Dr. Walsh says we save the most sadistic parts of our personalities for those we are closest too; even a teammate.
And, she says, one of the ways that men socially organize themselves is by hierarchy.
Every man knows who the alpha male is in the group, who the wing man is etcetera, and that is never broken.
The little digs and quips at each other are seen as affection, but are actually a way to continue the pecking order.
However, some men are more sensitive to the insults and can internalize it as a result.
So, telling someone like Jonathan Martin to “man up” could be the worst thing to say in his or her similar situation.
The doctor says what that means is that if you’re defining manhood that way, you’re defining it wrong. You’re defining manhood as someone who has no feelings and men clearly have feelings.
So let’s look at it like this, what we must remember is that the NFL, the football field, the locker room, the basketball court, the baseball diamond are all workplaces.
Workplace harassment is unacceptable.
You cannot bully nor harass a colleague.
When I asked the doctor why Martin wouldn’t take care of the problem himself, her answer was profound. She says he was taking care of the problem by not trading one kind abuse for another kind of physical violence.
In other words he wasn’t taking care of the problem by becoming another bully. He’s not continuing the cycle.
It’s a tough lesson for many of us, including me, with an old school approach to manhood.