Dolphins hazing incident brings attention, questions to NFL locker room culture

By Jonathan Blader ’17, Contributing Writer

Bullying has been a hot topic over the years. There have been documentaries on the subject, chronicling the troubles of young kids during their adolescent years.

However, it might have come as a shock that bullying occurs in professional sports as well.

This past week a story about a case of intense hazing inside the Miami Dolphin’s locker room surfaced. Richie Incognito, a veteran offensive lineman on the team, sent Jonathan Martin, a rookie lineman, text messages and voicemails that included racial slurs and threats. Martin handed over the evidence to the team, and the story broke shortly after. The threats included Incognito wanting to physically assault Martin. He was ridiculed for being half black and half white.

Objectively, the insults thrown at Martin are clearly racist and hurtful, but the culture of football has caused the issue to be treated a little differently than an incident that would occur in school.

These are grown men, and, although hazing might be childish, many have argued that this should have been kept inside the locker room and not have been released to the media. In fact, many veterans on the Dolphins have publicly addressed their displeasure about the way that Martin dragged the team into the spotlight. Hazing has gone on in the NFL for decades, so it comes as a surprise when a story like this catches the nation’s attention.

Many players on the team have admitted to being on Incognito’s side. They say that the way the media has portrayed him is unfair; they know he has a strong character and is a leader in the locker room. Unfortunately, the public is not privy to the ins and outs of Incognito’s personality. Martin and his family have hired a lawyer to represent him for the rest of the turmoil that is sure to follow. His return to the team was met with a lukewarm reception from his teammates.

The consensus around the NFL is that it is a known fact that Martin’s hazing (and maybe worse than his) is regarded as a standard procedure for initiating rookies into the league. However, what does this suggest to today’s youth? The people society glorifies the most athletes are let off the hook for bullying a man so much that he checked himself into a rehab facility. As this story continues to receive attention from the media our perception of what is acceptable when it comes to hazing will continue to be shaped and reshaped.

First-year Jonathan Blader is a contributing writer.  His email is jblader@fandm.edu.

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