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Bullying in the NFL

Bullies are Punks I'm a football fan like many of you. I follow football and have done so since I was a little boy. I played in middle school before switching to basketball. At that young age, I was a puny kid, and was often the subject of jokes, pranks and bullying before I grew into a 6’2 205 pound high school all-state athlete. Because of the experiences I had being bullied before I grew too big for others to try their luck with me; I had sympathy for the underdog, the one who was bullied. A few years ago, my friend Humberto Comellas, a Miami technology executive shared with me what bullying really was, and it was enlightening. Bullying is more than picking on the little guy. It is physical and mental harassment, embarrassment and an attack on one’s psychological wellbeing. Physical and mental Last week, a story broke in the sports pages and talk shows about Jonathan Martin, a big fella playing on the offensive line for the Miami Dolphins who left the team for an undisclosed “illness”. As the story caught wind news began to surface that he may have been bullied. How is this so? Martin is a big, tough, physical professional football player. I thought it only happened to the little guys and girls. As a high school and college athlete, I totally understand crazy stuff probably happens in the locker room, on road trips and at the training table. I’m sure all that craziness happens at a higher level at the NFL locker rooms, at meetings and during training. But the allegations against some of the Dolphins players may even be considered criminal. The Miami Dolphins have a problem that could be indicative of greater issues across the league. This was so severe that a player on the starting lineup actually left the team in midseason as that team fights for a shot at the playoffs. Hurtful pranks are bad, but allegations that certain teammates demanded payment for meals and other expenses that totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars is extortion. Some people may say that a professional athlete earning millions of dollars should be able to suck it up. But workplace harassment, hazing, and any sort of bullying are unacceptable on any level, regardless of profession, position, or salary. Bullying happens every day but for the most part, it escapes the radar screen because it falls under the guise as harmless teasing. But when the victim is overwhelmed, outnumbered and under pressure from a constant barrage of attacks is unable to fend off the constant mental or physical blows, it can become a nightmare. From the overweight employee, to the awkward girl at school; from the kid who is an outcast to the quiet scholar, its hard being on the receiving end of an attack, and often those attacks are relentless because the attackers seem to get pleasure attacking to elevate their own sense of importance. Believe me I know. Today, I understand the meaning of bullying because I was that kid that was called “punk” or “blackie” or “metal mouth” due to my braces. Once I outgrew the bullies and got string enough to kick their asses, it all stopped. They never called me a punk when they had to look up to me when I got in their faces. In fact, it was then that I learned what a punk really was; the bully that can get pleasure taking advantage of another person for their own self-gratification and self-edification. If a huge offense NFL lineman gets so upset that he cannot perform his duties on the football field, imagine how difficult it would be for others. Someone on that team should have approached the guys that were leading the offense against this young man. We need to stand up to bullies regardless of who they are or how many they are. Shame on the Miami Dolphins players and staff that didn’t stand up for Martin as this situation got out of control. Shame on anyone who takes part in bullying, but worse, shame on those that watch and don’t take action in reporting it. Those are the punks.

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