If you search for bullying news, the first thing you’ll see is a story on the Miami Dolphins bullying case. In fact, it’s also the second and third, possibly even the fourth and fifth thing you’ll see. It’s major news right now. Has been since it came out that Jonathan Martin suffered at the hands of teammates for two seasons before finally saying something.
The NFL Around the League page has a great piece on the case if you haven’t already heard about it. The question in my mind isn’t really whether Martin suffered or whether his teammates, allegedly led by Richie Incognito, were wrong. That’s pretty much been proven, at least in the eyes of the public. I want to know, what kind of message-both positive and negative-does this case send kids?
Miami Dolphins Bullying Case: What does it show our children?
I am very sad for Jonathan Martin. No one should go through the torment he endured at the hands of his teammates. Martin didn’t fight back, something that he seems to struggle with now. According to the news reports, Martin went so far as to contemplate suicide during the time he was bullied. When Martin left the Miami Dolphins, the harassment didn’t stop.
To me, the Miami Dolphins Bullying case sends two powerful messages to kids. The first is that bullying happens everywhere, even to famous football players. Martin’s initial handling of the bullying may send a message to kids that even a strong athlete is powerless to stop it. That’s a scary message. That can make kids feel like they can’t possibly stand up for themselves when this big, strong guy couldn’t do it. Not exactly the message we want kids taking away from the Miami Dolphins bulling case.
The second message, though, is equally as powerful and can actually help kids learn to cope with bullying or stand up for themselves. See, although Martin initially found it difficult to confront the bullies, he did find the courage to come forward in the end. Make no mistake, coming forward does take courage, especially when you’re a celebrity.
When you’re famous, it’s not just your other classmates or teachers who judge you, it’s an entire nation…if not the world. Every aspect of the Miami Dolphins bullying case is out there for the world to see. Some will say Martin over-reacted. Some will empathize with him. Millions of people have an opinion on the case, though, and that can be incredibly uncomfortable for a man who has dealt with bullying on such a grand scale. If Jonathon Martin can stand up to famous football players, perhaps it will encourage bullied children to come forward about their own personal torment.
Discussing the Miami Dolphins bullying case with your children
The Miami Dolphins bullying case is a great opportunity to have a dialogue with your older children about how to prevent bullying and how to stand up to bullies, especially if they are fans of the team. A few good open-ended questions to ask include:
- What surprises you most about the Miami Dolphins bullying case?
- What do you think should happen to Richie Incognito and the other teammates who were involved in bullying Jonathon Martin?
- What should Martin have done differently? If they say they don’t know, follow up with “should he have told someone right away about the bullying?”
- How do you think Martin feels, having all the details of his bullying case out there for the world to see? How do you think Incognito and the other adult bullies feel about their actions being so public?
- Why do you think Incognito and the other teammates bullied Martin?
The last two questions are designed to help kids empathize with both sides. As hard as it is to show empathy to an adult bully (really, they should know better!), bullying often arises because of insecurities. Perhaps Incognito was insecure about his own manhood. Allegedly, many of the comments he made were of a sexual nature directed towards Martin’s sister, after all. It seems that men make inappropriate sexual jokes when they feel they have something to prove in the “manhood” department. Incognito (seriously, what kind of name is that for a football player?) also allegedly directed racial slurs at Martin. Perhaps he was raised in a racist home and has that kind of negative thinking ingrained in him. Neither possibility makes it right, but understanding the motives behind bullying leads to understanding how to stop bullying.
What do you think about the Miami Dolphins bullying case? Do you think Incognito should be removed from the team? Should Martin go back to the team?