The Miami Dolphins, Bullying, and Misogyny

Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins

 

The official report of the team of attorneys hired to investigate allegations of bullying within the Miami Dolphins has finally appeared, and it is scathing.

 

Some writers are calling for Richie Incognito – the main perpetrator of offenses against Jonathan Martin and also the leader of two henchmen in a triad reminiscent of Harry Potter’s student tormentors, Malfoy, Goyle and Crabbe – to be cut from the team (he is now suspended) and eliminated from the National Football League (NFL) forever.

 

The report, here in its entirety, makes for fascinating and repellent reading.

 

Because the attorneys investigating the Dolphins interviewed hundreds of people, many of them witnesses to vocal abuse, they were able to acquire an overview of Dolphins’ culture, Dolphins’ attitudes . . . attitudes which were markedly different, especially on the offensive line where Martin and Incognito both worked, from other teams’.

 

At one point, a defensive lineman suggested to Martin that he join the “D-line” to release him from the bullying of Incognito and his pals. Yet leaving one set of players to join another on the same team would not have saved Martin from Incognito – it might have accelerated the abuse. Incognito was well-known among the NFL as a man with character flaws. While he played for the Rams, Incognito was fined $85,000 for four of his 38 on-field infractions and named “Dirtiest Player in the NFL” by The Sporting News in 2009. At least three teams had already refused to hire him based on his behavior both on and off the field, and the Dolphins had gone to the trouble of attaching a special character clause to his contract.

 

Beyond the personal interviews, the report’s authors also relied on the expertise of a psychologist, William H. Berman, Ph.D., “an expert in matters relating to workplace dynamics, interaction and culture, and interpersonal dysfunction within workplace relationships”, and on published works on bullying. What they found will surprise no one who has been bullied by sadistic teammates, work colleagues, or spouses and family members: many victims “go along to get along”. That is, they commonly try to maintain a cordial relationship with their tormentors, hoping that this will reduce the severity of bullying. Both Martin and Incognito referred to their relationship as “bipolar”, meaning at times it could be friendly, at times abusive. Still, the one does not cancel out the other, and survival mechanisms must not be allowed to negate abuse.

 

A “bipolar” relationship is never a friendship, FYI.

 

So I am happy for Jonathan Martin. This report helps dispel some of the bad feeling surrounding his leaving the Dolphins after a “last straw” moment. It will also tell fans who criticized him for weakness that, in fact, he had stood all he was going to, had suffered from it, and realized that assaulting Incognito – which Martin wanted to do – was not the answer.

 

The text messages and emails which the investigating teams pulled as hard evidence – some of which are quoted – show the degrading nature of Incognito’s thoughts and actions, and every right-minded person will reject the notion that these horrors were banter, that they were “fun”.

 

So, yes, I am happy for Martin, who blamed himself, thought he was at fault, and emotionally lashed himself, especially for failing to stand up to disgusting, abusive, violent, sexual remarks with regard to his sister and his mother.

 

Now, about misogyny.

 

It’s a type of bullying, too. Reading Incognito’s vile comments – they make me hope women view him in the future as a carrier of plague – it’s clear that he was reducing Martin’s sister and mother to the status of containers or slaves. Since Incognito is white and Martin is black, the stark dreadfulness of Incognito’s emailed and texted remarks is even more obvious.

 

But reducing any human being to a series of interlocking parts, without soul or brain, is just as humiliating. It is just as offensive. It is just as bullying.

 

And there, I’m afraid, Martin and Incognito are more alike than Martin would prefer. Several times, Martin refers to women he’s met or hopes to meet at bars, at parties, at strip clubs (places where women are seen as collections of parts, not as people) in derogatory terms. Repeatedly, he reduces them to simple objects. He fails to respect them, he fails to acknowledge and empathize with their humanity.

 

What do his mother and sister have to say about that aspect of their beloved son, beloved brother? Are they ashamed of his behavior? Or are they in denial, claiming that men will be men?

 

Once upon a time, the Dolphins were in denial.

 

From the beginning, I never doubted that Martin was bullied by Incognito.

 

Yet Jonathan Martin, like Incognito, like the other bullies, like other football players and fans – and, in fact, men everywhere – needs to rein in his own behavior and teach himself that degrading remarks about anyone, even women whose names you don’t know or recall, are just as much bully behavior as Incognito’s calling him the N-word.

 

 

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