Men, I Have Got Your Back! NFL Bullying Scandal

In my November 1, 2013, tweets, I felt compelled to promote awareness and knowledge of workplace bullying. We often hear about kids bullying each other, but less about adult  bullies. However, one week following my tweets, I heard the disturbing news about the NFL bullying scandal.

23 November 2013 Final football image

For those who are not aware of the details, here is a synopsis. Professional Miami Dolphins NFL player Jonathan Martin, age 24, stands at 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 312 pounds. Martin has apparently been the victim of bullying by his peer, Richie Incognito. It is reported that Incognito’s behaviour towards Martin consisted of relentless torment that included racial slurs, ugly insults and threats. It is reported that as a result, Martin checked himself into a hospital for emotional distress caused by his teammate Incognito, who has since been suspended by the Miami Dolphins.

Apparently, Martin found these comments no longer laughable, but intolerable, and decided to speak out. Many people see this as all good camaraderie between teammates, and found Martin’s response incomprehensible. They see it as a breach of the locker room code of silence; Martin simply doesn’t want to “man up.”  His fellow peers and men might also have seen his behaviour as committing the cardinal sin of snitching, when he should have turned the other cheek and “sucked it up” as the saying goes. What happened in Vegas should have stayed in Vegas,” or in this case, the locker room.

 However, I ask you these three questions:

1)    If bullying is not tolerated among kids, is it okay among adults?

2)    Is bullying in professional sports such as rugby, football, basketball, or soccer acceptable?

3)    Is workplace bullying among men or women acceptable behaviour?

We live in a society where we have unrealistic expectations of our men. They are expected to take a   machismo role and always dominate. Most importantly, men do not cry, and if they do, they are considered weak. This type of belief should not be promoted, as it prevents men from seeking help when needed. It also prevents them from expressing themselves when hurting.

Therefore, I say without hesitation, “Men, I have got your back.” I have a wonderful husband and males friends, who loves and play sports; I would not want any of them to suffer ridicule in silence. Both Martin’s and Incognito’s behaviours might have started out as friendly gestures, perhaps “rites of passage.” However, for Martin it turned out to be unbearable and excessive. In our society it is quite unusual for a big muscular guy to flee from a situation and express distress, but that distress still exists.    

Well, we are only human. Not every man has the DNA to put up resistance when he is being picked on. Some men would rather walk away because it is not their nature to fight back. Some men have a big exterior and a gentle interior. Martin may have been going along with the jokes and name calling,  to be seen as a team player rather than a loser—or worse, a wimp—but internally he was hurting. He may have been afraid to express himself, as he feared he would be viewed as weak, and not macho enough for football.

Nevertheless, I salute Martin because he sets a very good example for young men and boys by speaking out about bullying. Workplace bullying is an unacceptable behaviour that should not be tolerated by anyone.  

While most of us are not as famous as Martin, many adults still suffer from bullying by their peers.

Walden University has the following to say about dealing with workplace bullying:

1) Workplace bullying can include verbal abuse, threats, gossip, the silent treatment, offensive conduct, humiliation, intimidation, and work interference or sabotage.
2) Be honest with yourself. It’s easy to discount or ignore bullying, thinking you might be reading the situation wrongly, but if you think you’re being bullied, you likely are.
3) Set boundaries. Tell yourself you do not have to stand for this behaviour and will not be victimized. Remain in charge of your values, decisions, behaviour and conduct.
4) Get ready to confront the bully. Mentally prepare to send a clear and consistent message that the bullying needs to stop.
5) Make a formal complaint. Talk to your boss. Provide specific details about the bullying and how it affects you and your work. If your boss is the bully, talk to a human resources representative.
6) Seek alternative employment. If your workplace doesn’t change, take steps to find a non-hostile work environment where colleagues listen to one another’s viewpoints with respect, agree to disagree, and move forward.
7) “Bullying in the workplace is fundamentally wrong. It can cause physical, mental and emotional harm as well as long-term career problems,” says Dr. Logan. “Although no one wants to admit to being the bully or to being bullied, everyone has the right to work in a healthy, non-hostile work environment.”

Whether you are a man, woman or child, at the workplace, church, school, or play, if you are a victim of bullying, it is time to speak out! You have a right to enjoy life to its fullest. Wherever you are in the world, you have a right to love, peace and happiness!

As a mental health advocate who loves to try and see the good in people, I encourage you not to let anyone steal your joy. Stand up and say no to adult bullies, and if you do, I will crown you “Bully Conqueror.” 

I stand with you, men. Express yourselves!


(Karen Byfield)

 Please check out these websites for workplace bullying information: 

  1. Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety
  2. Bullying Statistic. Org- Workplace Bullying