NFL locker room culture has now entered the public’s consciousness. Should we even care?
To an extent, yes. But not because Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin have brought adult bullying to the front lines. Not even because we feel sorry for people who get bullied.
We should care because there is so much more at play than simple verbage and hazing. This is about respecting people with disabilities you can’t see.
The reports that revealed the bullying that took place in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room showed that while Incognito did inexcusable things, it was apparent that Martin suffered from mental issues and anxiety problems. When we hear “mental issues,” we tend to associate that with serious conditions that affect everyday functions in a very noticeable way. But Martin was neither dangerous nor ineffectual-he simply didn’t respond well to harsh criticism.
It’s not his fault. It’s just the way he’s wired. People like Incognito, unfortunately, can’t understand that not everyone enjoys homosexual barbs and quips about one’s mother. Some people, like Martin, are not equipped to take that kind of abuse.
The worst thing we can do in this situation is blame Martin. Yes, he’s a football player. Yes, he’s supposed to be the creme-de-la-creme of manhood in American society. But it’s simply wrong to criticize him for not living up to that standard.
Was Incognito wrong? Yes, though he probably wasn’t aware of the impact of his bullying. Still, we must look at the situation from both sides and realize that people react differently in many situations.