Where are the real tough guys in football? I want to see the "real men" who have heart and courage. I am not talking about heroics on the field. I am talking about the guys willing to stand up and say bullying should not be tolerated anywhere in football.
The kind of inhumane treatment of Jonathan Martin by his own Miami Dolphins teammate Richie Incognito is not right and is downright sickening. The NFL would do well to kick him out of the game. But bigger questions linger:
1) What are we not hearing about? How pervasive is this in the locker rooms across the country? Of greater concern to me, what about bullying in the NCAA, in high schools, junior high school locker rooms and pee wee football. After all, these young kids are so influenced by their grid iron heroes. I applaud the NFL's initial steps, including the appointment of a special counsel to investigate this matter.
2) What is the league going to do, as a league, about this problem? They need to take a strong stand, not just for the safety of their own players, but for the sake of the young people that idolize them.
Some players are stepping up. It was great to see comments like this in the Washington Post from Redskins star London Fletcher: "I was very disappointed in that locker room down in Miami because when you hear the reports that are coming out, when you look at it, here you have a young guy, second year in the league, and I'm sure what's happening to him was happening as a rookie as well," Fletcher said at Redskins Park. "It's for somebody, some veterans in that group in that locker room, to come up and step up and put a stop to that."
I am proud to help lead a national anti-bullying campaign with the Ad Council and the Department of Education. Our message to kids: It is not OK to be a bystander. Bystanders can have a huge role in helping the victims and supporting them. The case of Jonathan Martin and Rich Ingognito has me asking the same questions I ask when we hear of children being bullied. Where were the friends? Where were the adults? Where were the leaders?
This whole incident shines a bright light on a problem that is pervasive in our society. Bullying is an epidemic and we must do something about it. So the next time you worry about your children being bullied, or doing the bullying, or wondering if they are voiceless bystanders, think about 6'5, 315 pound offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. He is no different than kids all over the country living in quiet fear every day. If he can't beat back a bully, it's going to take a lot more muscle.
It's time for us all to get off the sidelines on this issue.