First take on NFL “Bullying” Scandal.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill of the Miami DolphinsBefore revealing my thoughts on the Jonathan Martin-vs-Richie Incognito bullying flap, here is  CBS’s  report on the essentials of the situation by reporter Jason La Canfora.

The basics of the alleged bullying.

  • Last week’s flare-up between Martin and his teammates, “was not an isolated incident — not even close,” one source said. “It’s been going on almost since they drafted him.” Other players on the team said it was fairly widely known within the team that the offensive linemen were hard on Martin, a second-round pick in 2012, and Martin has expressed his displeasure with the situation in the past. Last week, several Dolphins players denied there was any history of verbal abuse or bullying of Martin.
  • Incognito has had to be reprimanded in the past for his actions toward team employees, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. It is not uncommon for him to intentionally walk into people and make others feel uncomfortable, and to make threatening remarks to Martin, sources said. “It’s hard to picture a 6-foot-5 350-lb football player [Martin] as being the victim of bullying, but that’s exactly what took place here,” the source said. “He is genuinely scared of what Incognito might do to him, or has threatened to do to him.”

My take on whether this is bone fide bullying.

Sounds like the elements of classic bullying are here: aggression (i.e., verbal abuse and threats apparently involving, among other things, demands that Martin pay more than his share for a   Miami Dolphins linemen to visit Vegas), repetition, and imbalance in power (senior players “initiating” newbies).

There’s a big difference, however, between NFL locker rooms and schools where bullying always needs to be addressed and dealt with. NFL locker rooms are like police and military locker rooms: the faint of heart don’t fare well. However, team leaders in NFL situations–just like authorities in schools–should intervene when a line is crossed, especially with vulnerable “bullying” targets like soft-spoken, Stanford-educated Martin  Besides team leaders, Dolphin management must make players accountable when they cross lines. ‘Tis probably a good thing that the Dolphins have suspended Incognito, who, ironically was appointed a team leader. Still, an argument can be made that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the NFL kitchen. This makes adult bullying of vulnerable souls, especially in the NFL, light years different from situations involving the vulnerable in K thru 12 schools.

My credentials for sounding off re bullying.

In a recent news article about me, Cathy Dausman says

  • Karl Schonborn “knows what it’s like” to be bullied. He was born with a cleft palate and endured seven oral/facial surgeries as a young child. Each time his lip was re-cut. His facial imperfections and accompanying speech difficulties made him the subject of both verbal and physical harassment in school. His personal background and coming of age in the violence filled 1960s led him to study crime and violence and make it his life’s work.
  • [Schonborn sees] an opportunity to reach out to those being bullied today, whatever the reason. He plans to use his upcoming book tour – with stops in Palo Alto, New York, Philadelphia, and New Haven – as a platform to educate parents about bullying.


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