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NFL Bullying Scandal: Student Discussion and Resource Guide

Dolphins bullying incognitoLong a prominent issue in the K-12 educational space, the issue of bullying is being thrust into the national spotlight as the country’s most popular professional sports league begins an investigation into accusations of rampant bullying among its players. is reporting that Miami Dolphins starting offensive lineman Jonathan Martin voluntarily left the team after being the target of extreme bullying at the hands of teammates. Martin reported that he was forced to pay $15,000 to fund a player trip to Las Vegas that he was not permitted to attend, and that all of his teammates got up and left the dining area when he sat down at team meals. Martin alleges that the ringleader of the bullying was fellow starting lineman Richie Incognito.

Incognito is being accused of personally bullying Martin both in person and via digital communications. Jason La Canfora of CBS, relying on multiple sources, reported that Martin provided the Dolphins and the NFL with several texts allegedly sent to him by Incognito. Those messages are reported to include racial slurs, as well as threats to both Martin (who is bi-racial) and his family.

La Canfora added, “There are several instances of threats as well, the sources said, and overall disturbing exchanges.”

Incognito was kicked off the teams at Nebraska and Oregon before being voted by fellow NFL players as the second “dirtiest” player in the league several years ago.

Incognito Tweet

For his part, Incognito has maintained his innocence, at one point taking to Twitter to demand that the various media outlets reporting the story clear his name. In one Tweet he wrote, “@espn @CBSSports @NBCSports @FOXSports @ProFootballTalk I want my name CLEARED.”

Shortly thereafter, the Dolphins released a statement revealing that Incognito was being indefinitely suspended. The statement, in part, read, “We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time. As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter.”

As the Martin case is similar in many ways to instances of bullying that take place in the K-12 classroom, EducationWorld offers the following questions to help frame class discussion:

  • We often hear about bullying and cyber-bullying happening in K-12 schools, but were you surprised to hear that the same kind of thing is reportedly happening in the NFL?
  • If the allegations against Incognito are substantiated, what should the NFL do?
  • What kind of teammate behavior do you think allowed the alleged bullying to go on? What could have helped prevent the alleged bullying? Are these the same things that would encourage or prevent bullying in this school?
  • If Jonathan Martin was a student at this school and you knew that the incidents he describes (such as texts including racial slurs) were happening to him, what actions (on the part of classmates and school staff) could help the situation? What other school-wide actions would you recommend? 

Related resources

Anti-Bullying Lessons and Activities
Join the Discussion on Bullying
The Best Bullying Prevention Schools Aren’t Doing
Stan Davis: Ask Bullied Kids What Helps Them provides information on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how individuals can prevent and respond to bullying is a national organization dedicated to empowering people to prevent hazing. Although it is a young organization, HazingPrevention has already established three major national efforts—National Hazing Prevention Week, the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention and a growing number of webinars.

Cerebral Palsy and Bullying There are a number of ways parents, teachers, and caregivers can help combat bullying, which is especially important for kids with cerebral palsy, who may not be able to properly defend themselves.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
Education World
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