Much of this young NFL offseason has been dominated by coverage of the bullying accusations made by former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, Jonathan Martin.
As the story has developed, much has been reported about the Dolphins’ locker room culture, which, evidently not only allowed, but fostered, an atmosphere where veteran players felt comfortable crossing the line between teasing or hazing and into the realm of bullying and abuse. Martin allegedly suffered a mental breakdown as a result of repeated harassment led by fellow lineman, veteran Richie Incognito, which Martin was long reluctant to report to team officials.
As information about what really happened continues to surface weekly, we’ll stay away from editorializing or passing judgment in this space. However, from this scandal have emerged some revealing comments from NFL players past and present. Perhaps the most thoughtful big-picture analysis came from Chicago Bears wide receiver, Brandon Marshall – a man who is no stranger to scandal and bad behavior.
Of the reported bullying, Marshall said in a press conference, “I also know it’s not an isolated incident. It’s unfortunately the culture of the NFL.” Marshall continued with an explanation of how he believes the NFL’s culture of strength and stoicism is created:
Look at it from this standpoint. Take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down and the first thing we say as parents is ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ A little girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We validate their feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, to not show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. You can’t show that your hurt, can’t show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem. Thats what I mean by the culture of the NFL. And that’s what we have to change.
Marshall closed by offering up a suggestion for how the league and its players could work on changing the culture:
So what’s going on in Miami goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking. Maybe have some group sessions where guys sit down and maybe talk about what’s going on off the field or what’s going on in the building and not mask everything. Because the (longer) it goes untreated, the worse it gets.
Do you agree with Marshall’s take on NFL culture? What do you think of his suggestion for changing the culture?