BENJAMIN BURNS — Sunday. The Gridiron. The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and the Monsters of the Midway. Every Sunday, the best football players in the country play the most violent sport in America for our entertainment. They play through rain, sleet, hail, and snow, delivering and receiving hits that would break a layperson’s ribs. Some players play through their injuries, while others have to be physically forced off the field. To date, there have been greater than 270 severe injuries suffered by the players requiring placement on injured reserve, with more and more players being injured every week. NFL players are the frequently regarded as the toughest athletes in America – and in order to survive in the NFL, they have to be.
Meanwhile, in Miami, it is emotion rather than injury that is becoming a burden on the locker room. While there is no excusing some of the comments made to Jonathan Martin by one teammate, there is one question arising from the incident. That is, what does this have to do with the Miami Dolphins and/or the NFL?
According to Florida’s Healthy Workplace Bill, an “Abusive Work Environment” is a work environment that exists when an employer, acting with malice, subjects an employee to abusive conduct so severe that it causes tangible harm to the employee.
They keyword here is “employer.” The employer, not an employee, creates an abusive work environment. Martin’s allegations, while largely unclear, seem to revolve largely around altercations with Richie Incognito and Incognito’s mistreatment of Martin. What these allegations seemingly lack are any instances of misconduct coming directly from the Miami Dolphins or the NFL. That’s not to say that the culture of the NFL itself isn’t hostile, as it could be argued that the evolution of the game has created the necessity of a hostile and aggressive mentality in its players. However, those changes could (and should) be attributed to the nature of the game of football, and not to any culture created by the National Football League.
Bullying and harassment are unacceptable in any environment, as are other forms of mistreatment. However, this mistreatment needs to be properly labeled as well as alleged against the proper party. The issue of “Bullying in the NFL” is a great example of an issue that is both improperly labeled and alleged against the improper party.