Spoiler Alert -- this is not going to be another conformist memo condemning NFL player behavior as "vile," "disgusting," or "abhorrent."
Do you know what is brutal? This hit right here. Or this one. These guys are 6'3, 280lbs and can sprint through the hole and crush a man the way a high schooler would run through a 3rd grader. In 2012, there were approximately 217 concussions in the NFL. Are we all yet aware of what constant trauma does to the human brain? It affects decision-making, perception, communication skills, etc. Brain trauma causes depression, plummeting self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, bankruptcy and suicides. Approximately 78 percent NFL players go bankrupt or suffer from financial stress within only 5 years following retirement. Multiple players have committed violent crimes or suicide in the past year. You can fill pages with these types of statistics and medical facts.
Now, do I condone bullying? Absolutely not. Everyone has been a victim of bullying in his or her life, and I think we can all agree that it feels awful. There is no place for bullying, ESPECIALLY with children and young adults, and the fact that a case like Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito brings attention to the international issue is a fantastic thing.
But do you know who's wrong here? NFL leadership and the media. It is shocking how many people from within and outside the league are up in arms over the 148 page Paul Weiss Report, the NFL requested memo detailing bullying within the 2013-2014 Miami Dolphins. What do you think happens in the locker room? These men are trained to hurt, psychologically programmed to run through walls and stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Competition for a salary is fiercer than any lawyer, doctor, marketer, trader, or teacher will ever face.
The media and NFL spokespersons have continued to bash Incognito, Martin, and now several of their teammates. Reporters are calling for lifetime banishment, Dolphins' owner Steve Ross, a billionaire, is "deeply disturbed." Professional teachers, psychologists and others who know nothing about the game are clamoring to be the "thought leader" who can detract from the players and team cultures as much as possible. And they're all wrong.
Do you know whose fault it really is?
Yours. Mine. Ours. Fans, sponsors, business owners, advertisers, consumers -- we created and benefited from the market for these gladiators, and now we're the ones who are shocked when they destroy each other psychologically in the locker room? Please. This is the culture we created. Eat or be eaten. Kill or be killed. Go back into the game after having your brain rattled around your skull, see if you can do the same to someone else.
The NFL does approximately $10 billion plus in revenue, with a majority of the money coming from broadcasting networks. Companies like Bud Light and Pepsi committed over $45 million in advertising dollars to the NFL this year. We as consumers are obsessed with Fantasy Football, Sunday Fundays, and getting together at house parties and bars to watch these brutes tear each other to pieces. The NFL is a money-making machine.
It doesn't take much editorial or professional guts to jump on the back of a Richie Incognito/Miami Dolphins smear campaign only because it's reached a national level. Where were the NYT columnists and anti-bullying advocates 12 months ago? Locker room culture didn't become this way over night.
It's become very American to fan a fire until it reaches a point of destruction, then cry foul and look for the bucket of water. When a problem arises we need to take a look in the mirror and address it, not point fingers and bite the entertaining hand that feeds.