Who is Responsible for NFL Bullying?

MartinNow what?

An independent investigation has concluded that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin  was bullied and harassed by team mates, forcing him to leave the team midway through the season.

Ted Wells, an attorney who was retained by the National Football League to investigate Martin’s abrupt departure from the Dolphins last fall, concludes in his report that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, “engaged in a patterns of harassment directed at not only at Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.”  He named Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey.

The report states that Martin was “taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his  sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments.”  The report alleges the assistant trainer  was the object of racial slurs and the offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching.

Dolphins Exonerated?

The Martin case raises the question of whether  the NFL tolerates abuse on the theory that it dehumanizes and “toughens up” players,  making  them more savage on the playing field.

The Wells report, however, barely acknowledges the role of the Dolphins or the NFL in the matter, even though these organizations appear to have tolerated the locker room’s culture of abuse that is laid bare in the report.

The report concludes:  “As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace. Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults. We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people.”

Martin reportedly did not report the harassment to the NFL because he didn’t want to be a “Judas.”

The report criticizes Dolphins Coach Jim Turner  for discouraging complaints. Although Turner denied it, the report states, “The evidence shows that Turner was aware of the “Judas” concept and that he had discussed its meaning with the linemen, explaining how Judas had betrayed Jesus Christ and defining Judas as a “snitch.”

Organizational Goal?

Many employers  engage in or tolerate strategic bullying to accomplish an organizational goal. For example, some unscrupulous employers seek to downsize without paying unemployment compensation or other benefits.

Surveys show that one in every three or four workers in the United States are bullied and harassed, and many suffer potentially serious emotional and physical damage. Unlike many other industrialized countries, no law exists in the United States requiring employers to insure their workplace is free from what some have called “emotional terrorism.”

Victims of workplace bullying often have little  resource.

Press attention may compel the Dolphins  to discipline Martin’s antagonists on the basis of a general  company anti-harassment policy. Many employers do not make that choice, leaving  victims vulnerable to emotional trauma until they quit like Martin or are fired.

This blog advocates  a national response to workplace bullying that permits any victim of a hostile workplace environment to seek the protections  now available only to protected classes (ie. race, sex) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Bullying in the NFL Workplace

Even Football Players Hurt When Bullied

It may seem rather silly that a participant in a sport that is so brutal that it causes its players to suffer brain damage would throw in the towel because of taunts and insults by teammates.

But the actions of 6’5″, 315-pound Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin, 25,  are a testament to the damage that workplace bullying can inflict upon targets.

Martin walked off the job recently because he could no longer the endure “abusive environment” that he allegedly has suffered during his one-and-a-half seasons with Miami.  The last straw reportedly came on Monday when he sat down to eat lunch with several other players and they stood up and left when he tried to join them

Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who is allegedly one of the players who has harassed Martin, was suspended this week for conduct detrimental to his team.  He allegedly sent Martin racist and threatening texts and voicemails.

Research shows that workplace bullying can fell even the mightiest in our society.

Workplace abuse  causes targets to suffer potentially severe mental and  physical illness, including mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach, panic attacks, headaches etc.  Evidence is accumulating to suggest that stress plays an important role in chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders. Bullying targets frequently report experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for years after they leave a job in which they were bullied..

There are many well-publicized cases of suicide that are related to workplace bullying, including the recent suicide of the Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier, 53, of the multi-national insurance company, Zurich Insurance Group in Switzerland. He left a note blaming his new boss, who a day after Wauthier’s suicide resigned.

Miami Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin said the NFL is going to conduct a comprehensive and objective review of the workplace environment  and the Dolphins will fully cooperate as an organization.

Individuals who are  experiencing workplace bullying are encouraged to read my book, Transcend Your Boss: Zen and the Difficult Workplace, to gain some coping strategies.  They are also encouraged to sign a petition demanding that the Obama administration address the problem of workplace bullying in our society.