There has been a recent surge of anti-bullying organizations and messages in our society today. The majority of these have targeted bullying within grade school and between children as a way to bring awareness and prevent future abuse. However, a recent case brought to light through the professional sports realm proves that bullying is not found in schools alone. News reports indicate that Jonathan Martin, (former) offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, is the alleged target of bullying by Richie Incognito, a fellow teammate on the Miami Dolphins squad. While this case is still being investigated, there have been many facts that have surfaced which both supports and reputes the claims the media has made.
This leads me to my first point, that bullying is “the flavor of the month” for national media and as such, is often hyperbolically stated. If you were to scour the Internet, you will undoubtedly find numerous sites providing bullying statistics. Further review of these stats show that they are open-ended, and each site varied on the numbers given. It leads me to believe there are very little factual grounds for these given statistics. Thus, I am inclined to believe that this “epidemic” is not as widespread as national media would have you believe. However, do not construe this as my personal opinion that we do not have bullies within our country.
I believe that many of the statistics given are “hyped-up” to bring more awareness to the bullying issue. Assuming this is true, I also believe it is not an ethical way to garner awareness to an issue. But, in certain circumstances, hyperbolic statements can be justifiable because of the greater good it serves society. In short, I agree with the notion that it is in everyone’s best interest to have awareness of bullying increased (if only to prevent further incidents from occurring). I also admit that this increased awareness is essential to help the helpless victims of bullying. However, it is my belief that society goes too far to shield victims capable of stopping the bullying from happening.
Take Jonathan Martin and the Miami Dolphins’ scandal for example (to bring it full circle). Martin may have been the brunt of inside jokes and/or pranks within the Dolphins organization. It is also alleged that these actions were orchestrated by Richie Incognito, a player with a terrible reputation in the NFL (which leads me to believe there is some factual basis for the claims). However, Jonathan Martin is a 6’5” 312 lb. wall man who certainly has the physical capability of handling a man of Incognito’s stature (6’3”, 319 lbs.), as can be seen by his play against opponents on the NFL gridiron. With this in mind, the media was still willing to – and did – classify Martin as a helpless victim of yet another case of bullying.
I understand different individuals have their own specific needs and/or breaking points. I do not wish to undermine this notion. But what frustrates me is that the media and society seems to be willing to dismiss the idea that Martin could have and should have handled this matter himself. For starters, the majority of these events took place within an athletic organization (an institution more renowned for its physical capabilities rather than its intellectual capacity). This type of atmosphere breeds a need to be macho (based off societal expectations of athletes) in the locker room with your teammates. This will sometimes include actions that can be derived as “bullying,” however within the team construct it is meant to build camaraderie. If there is ever an issue that arises from this, it is up to the person being subjected to such behavior to put a stop to it.
Therefore, it is in my opinion that Martin (and other individuals facing similar circumstances) should have taken care of the problem. Has society really come to a point where it is willing to disregard an individual’s own obligation to seek and earn the respect of his colleagues? Is it not reasonable to believe that Martin could have and should have taken care of this problem before it was released to the media? And if Martin couldn’t handle his own business then maybe he should have quit before the media made the events occurring within the Dolphins organization a fiasco.
I was raised to believe and live by the notion that you handle your own problems. I was also raised knowing that it is never permitted to seek out a fight, but you must finish any that come your way. In short, I believe Martin should have and could have fought (whether verbally or physically) against his “bullies.” With this said, please do not construe my opinion as meaning that every victim is capable of “fighting back.” In fact, I completely believe in the validity of, and am an advocate for anti-bullying in schools amongst students. But, I refuse to accept the notion that an adult is the helpless victim to a bully. Bullied adults are only as helpless as they allow themselves to bet. So, my question is simple: in instances such as this, would it be best to fight back against a bully or are we at a point in society where our individual accountability has been vanquished by the need for society to be inclusive?
~Matthew Froelich, L’14~