GUEST POST: An alternative response to the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito saga
As we continue to sift through the differing reports on the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incongito bullying saga, the realization that we may never fully know the whole truth is troubling. But the untold story is no more troubling than the event itself and the varying stances of Martin’s teammates, the Dolphins management and the media. As last Friday’s reports announced the possibility that Martin was physically attacked, that Martin’s sister was disgustingly threatened, and that Incognito may have displayed inappropriate and harassing behavior in a public incident at a Golfing event in 2012 – it is clear that character issues are at the heart of this conflict despite Incognito’s interview with Jay Glazer of Fox Sports.
Jonathan Martin has been called soft by teammates, other NFL players and NFL analysts alike. In the face of this situation, many peers cannot understand why he is doing what he is doing or how a 6’5” 320 pound, “grown-ass man” failed to stand up for himself. His education at Stanford and his upbringing by two Harvard graduates have offered a context for some to attack his integrity and commitment to the aggressive culture of the National Football League.
With Incognito, we’ve seen the video of his racist tirades, heard the reports of his violent outbursts and have the facts of expulsion from Nebraska, numerous penalties, and conflicts with coaches as evidence of his questionable character. And yet, teammates have rallied to his defense, whereas his bullied victim is considered by many to be equally at fault.
With all the encouragement to stand-up to Incognito, to “punch him in the mouth” and to act like a man; is it possible that the educated and intelligent Martin took an even braver route? By walking away from the confrontation and leaving it for the proper authorities to “handle,” could Martin’s non-violent actions signal the dawn of change within the violent culture of the NFL? What if Jonathan Martin went in the other direction and confronted Incognito head-on? How unrealistic could it have been – had the abuse and bullying been so extreme – that Martin met those actions with an equally extreme response and brought a weapon into the locker room in order to stand-up to Incognito? Perhaps Martin’s actions appear so foreign to his peers because it is evidence of higher-thinking; walking away is above the violence and machismo of NFL culture and it addresses an even greater set of issues – abuse, bullying, hatred, and racism.
There is a potential silver lining in this drama and credit must be given to Jonathan Martin. Intolerance is unacceptable. Abuse is intolerable. And bullying has no place in the world whether the victim is an undersized, teenage David or an NFL Goliath. The alternative, non-violent response holds weight in changing the culture of the NFL and perhaps beyond – to the schools and classrooms of our country which have been the all-too familiar locales of tragedy as a direct result of bullying.
Marty Keiser is an actor, writer, teacher, and editor at Yardbarker.com. He graduated from Tufts University and has an MFA in Acting from Columbia University. He loves all things football and fantasy football and unfortunately favors Philadelphia sports teams.