Miami Dolphins and Richie Incognito: Sports Illustrated declares win for anti-bullying movement

Sports Illustrated has declared victory for the anti-bullying movement in the Miami Dolphins workplace bullying story.

Earlier this month, the Dolphins suspended player Richie Incognito in the wake of alleged severe, threatening bullying behaviors toward teammate Jonathan Martin. Within days, the story went national.

A front-of-the-book piece in the Nov. 18 issue of SI by editor L. Jon Wertheim (not yet available online) notes that the story is “pitting the NFL’s macho old guard against the antibullying movement” and says that we “might be surprised at who’s winning handily.” Wertheim observes:

But this is a quintessentially American creation, a stew of sports and violence and manhood and media and tribalism and ostracism — with a race/class garnish. And it also involves perhaps one of the country’s most powerful movements in recent years. This has already been a massive victory for the antibullying forces.

He closes his piece this way:

As we watch, we’ve already arrived at a cultural moment that has taught us this: When even the toughest, meanest jocks mess with antibullying movement, they’re not winning the fight.

Folks, I’ve been subscribing to SI for over 40 years, going back to my earliest days as a sports fan. Take my word for it, this article is a modest, yet meaningful milestone in itself. Okay, so in classic sports journalism fashion, they had to declare a winner and a loser. But it shows how the anti-bullying movement — and in this specific context, the workplace anti-bullying movement — is gaining steam and becoming mainstreamed.

Roundup of other commentary

While we’re at it, let me offer this roundup of commentary on the Miami Dolphins story from folks within my network of friends and associates:

Gary Namie in the national media

Dr. Gary Namie has been commenting extensively in the national media and on the Workplace Bullying Institute blog about the Dolphins situation. Go here for a National Public Radio interview, “How Best to Manage Workplace Bullying,” with Linda Wertheimer. Also, here’s what he wrote about media commentary on the story:

It’s getting harder to find apologists among the sports cognoscenti at ESPN to defend the Miami Dolphins designated bully Richie Incognito. The Miami Dolphins post-game panel after Monday Night Football on Nov. 11 stated unanimously that the locker room culture in every team would have to change just as surely as approaches to concussions have changed. They spoke of “neanderthals” in the locker room growing extinct. That the league has to evolve because other workplaces don’t behave abusively. (Oops. Yes they do. That’s the message about workplace bullying.)

Ellen Pinkos Cobb on workplace anti-bullying laws elsewhere

Attorney Ellen Pinkos Cobb uses the Dolphins story to note that the U.S. has yet to enact legal protections against workplace bullying, in contrast to other nations. Here’s a snippet from her piece for Workplace Violence News:

The US would do well to look around the world. Numerous countries have legislation to protect workers from bullying. Canada, Australia, and nine European countries have enacted anti-bullying laws, including Sweden, France, and Denmark, and Serbia. As of January 1, 2014, an Australian worker who believes he or she has been bullied may apply to the Fair Work Commission for an investigation and if cause is found, have an order issued to the employer to stop the bullying.

Ellen’s very helpful transnational resource, Bullying, Violence, Harassment, Discrimination and Stress – Emerging Workplace Health and Safety Issues, updated this year, is available from the Isoceles Group, with which she is affiliated.

Kerri Stone asks why the Incognito story

Law professor Kerri Stone (Florida International U.), in a Huffington Post piece, examines how a story involving NFL players has brought workplace bullying to the public spotlight:

In the wake of the Richie Incognito suspension, a big question that we need to ask is…why? With bullying so rampant in society, why has this story captivated the public imagination? And why did the Dolphins decide to suspend him that Sunday afternoon after initially defending him in a statement released just that morning?

My commentary

I was interviewed by Alex Hopkins for the Washington Times last week:

David C. Yamada, a law professor and director of Suffolk University Law School’s New Workplace Institute, has drafted a model “Healthy Workplace Bill” which tries to define what constitutes an “abusive work environment.”

He wrote recently that workplace bullying tends to get overlooked because the human interest appeal typically doesn’t reach the level of bullying children.

“Although workplace bullying is one of the most common forms of interpersonal abuse at work, most people targeted for this mistreatment are unlikely to find the media interested in their stories. In [Miami Dolphins] case, without the growing media attention, it’s possible that the whole thing would’ve been swept under the rug,” said Mr. Yamada. “Most bullying targets must deal with the abuse on a wildly uneven playing field, and having a legal wedge will help to level things out.”

I also wrote a blog post last week, “Nine preliminary lessons from the Miami Dolphins workplace bullying story.”

3 responses

  1. Tough guys too can be victims of psychological assaults and emotional violence, and real men won’t put up with it, and real men and real women are willing and able to come to their assistance.

    There has been too much of a dismissive attitude that nothing can be done. Real men and real women of the NFL haven’t taken that negative attitude. Instead they took action. We need to brainstorm and experiment, like good scientists and good progressive politicians and good Officers of Justice, with all the possible ways of dealing with psychological assaults and violence—even in the sports workplace, even in our communities’ workplaces, even in libraries.

    Jonathan Martin comes from a family and Harvard and Stanford leadership culture. I’ve read a dozen articles and comments on this Miami Dolphins controversy and there have been a lot of redneck sports fans opinions that Martin is a sissy who can’t take it. They think Martin should have just adapted to the environment instead of having the courage and leadership to, in essence, protest and promote progressive change.

    No. Martin is a leader standing up for appropriate behavior in the workplace…and everywhere else for that matter.
    And even if I don’t necessarily have the education or intelligence or family support that Martin has, I am definitely on his kind of team. My actions as an employee in library and legal workplaces have been, in essence, almost as smart and as humanistically oriented as Jonathan Martin in promoting appropriate behavior and having the courage to call out inappropriate behavior.

    I’m not sorry that I have some unpopular opinions and analyses regarding our system of justice and some of its players. I think maybe they should be looked at. There is a lot of locker room type bullying, macheesymo, redneck, reactionary, inappropriate behavior that takes place in our legal communities. In psychologists’ studies, many members of this community score highest on entitlement attitudes, bullying, and sociopathic behavior.

    Jonathan Martin obviously didn’t appreciate the tribal, inappropriate and bullying NFL culture, and for good reason. Maybe it’s time the boys grow up. I feel the same way about the reactionaries and the bully apologists and enablers in our legal and library communities.

    And I know my victimization will never be thoroughly examined because I don’t have any of the clout that Martin has. But more power to him. He’s got the pseudo-machismo, rough and tough sports guys talking about bullying! Amazing!

    Sports Fan Comment: “It doesn’t matter how big or strong you are – it matters that this person feels that he is not being treated correct. This world needs to wake up and realize we need to start treating each other with respect.”

  2. How have such abusive behaviours become so normalised, even glamourised. There is seemingly so little recourse for victims, who too often feel ashamed and can’t demand action for themselves. I am so pleased that the anti-workplace bullying movement is gaining momentum, but I wonder too how people who are bullied outside a workplace environment can find a leg to stand on. Respect to those of you fighting for healthy workplace environments, but please please remember that out of the workplace people have even fewer rights. How can we support a movement to help these people too? Eg university students, club members, volunteers, etc etc.

  3. We never know when, where or who but all that finally matters is we’re getting the right attention we need.

    Workplace bullying will be a law one day, I know it will.

    Great work from all who add a voice in this matter.

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