by Michaela Winberg
On Oct. 30, professional football player Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins to receive “professional assistance for emotional issues,” according to usatoday.com. Those issues allegedly refer to the emotional abuse that Martin received from fellow teammate Richie Incognito. Since then, the scandal continued to unfold and blame has been tossed to all sides—the coach, Incognito and even Martin. However, blame should be placed not on the players or the coaches, but on the culture of football. Rather than suspending players, the NFL should work to mend the cruelty that exists in the locker rooms and on the field.
According to foxsports.com, Incognito sent Martin texts and left him voicemails full of racial insults, even using the n-word at points. Martin often replied with equally offensive texts, even joking about murdering Incognito’s family at one point. Neither side was actually trying to offend the other, and Incognito does not deserve all the blame for his actions.
Even after Martin left the team, he sent Incognito a text that read: “I don't blame you guys at all it's just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little," according to foxsports.com. Blaming the victim of bullying is almost universally condemned. But because the culture of abuse in the locker rooms of the NFL is so strong, many have begun to blame Martin.
According to usatoday.com, Denver Broncos Defensive Tackle Terrance Knighton thought Martin broke the code of the locker room by leaving the team and letting the abuse leak. Knighton is one of many players and fans to condemn Martin’s behavior. Because the players have been so immersed in the abusive culture for so long, they fail to see that Martin was only trying to get the help that he needed.
Perhaps Martin’s departure from football will shake the NFL into realizing that the abusive culture must be addressed. Incognito’s actions were wrong and should not go unpunished, but just because Incognito is the one who got caught doesn’t mean that he’s the only bully in football. To prevent the unjust blame of Incognito or Martin, the NFL needs to make it their mission to end the bullying in football culture.