Bullying in Sports

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Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (left) and tackle Jonathan Martin (right) earlier this year. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Bullying is back in the news this week. Miami Dolphin offensive lineman Richie Incognito has been accused of bullying another offensive lineman on his own team, Jonathan Martin. And a cable news show panelist was blathering on about how “bullying” is something that happens in grade school.

Not so.

Then I read Hochman: It’s not being a man defending bullying in NFL, which quoted Broncos offensive lineman Winston Justice: “I’ll be honest with you, I think Martin totally overdramatized the whole thing. I mean, come on. Bullying is bad, but when you’re a 25-year-old man, it’s not bullying. Get over it.”

Apparently there is still some confusion about what bullying is.

Bullying is a phenomenon that happens within most aspects of life – from childhood through adulthood. Most people would agree that bullying is an unpleasant situation, but people have differing opinions on what constitutes bullying.

Any mistreatment of another can be considered bullying.

Everyone has their own interpretation of how to define the occurrence – picking on kids (typically the same group every time), teasing, stealing from them and beating them up; physically making people feel bad about themselves; psychologically intimidating or hurting another person; and purposely exclude another in order to gain a sense of power and respect.

This is likely a reflection of the widely held stereotypes of gender in the bullying process – boys as physically aggressive anonymous bullies versus girls as covert and subtle manipulators. But all of the above are themes of negative acts in which the goal is to make “the bully” feel superior and the “bullyee” feel threatened.

I use the term “victim” to describe the person on the receiving end of aggression not because they have no recourse or actual ability to defend themself, but because a person in a bullying situation feels victimized during the occurrence.

Bullying is the conscious repetition of mistreatment towards another.

In adults, this mistreatment generally manifests in a combination of humiliation and/or the withholding of resources and support – in turn preventing the victim from succeeding at his or her assigned tasks in a given aspect of life.

Cruel actions alone do not constitute bullying if no harm is perceived. But all types of harassment are bullying if the actions of the perpetrator have the effect of hurting another physically or mentally.

Bullies and victims alike are men and women of all races, ages, and classes. Harmful events initiated by one individual towards another happen in all organizations regardless of size, type or professional player position.

Man up. Call it out.

That’s how you get it over with.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Bullying in Sports

  1. Nicki

    bullying and DV aren’t so far apart. DV at it’s core is just bullying between intimate partners rather than peers; schoolmates, teammates, random strangers. It’s simply insecure people who take a violent approach to try and gain power in situations. They make themselves feel big by making other small.

    What frustrates me is how we, as a society, continue to tolerate and condone this behavior. I’m seeing so many comments telling Martin to suck it up, be a man, that’s the NFL culture. My question is why is that culture ok?

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