Wed March 12, 2014
For Player At Center Of NFL Bullying Story, A New Opportunity
Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 3:52 pm
When Jonathan Martin abruptly left the Miami Dolphins in the middle of last season after alleging harassment by his teammate, Richie Incognito, it sparked media discussions about everything from the use of the word "nigger" in N.F.L. locker rooms to the construction of masculinity.
From the beginning, the story was complicated by race and class: Martin would have been the first black fourth-generation Harvard student ever had he not opted for Stanford; Incognito is white and has had run-ins with the law. (Code Switch waded into the weird racial particulars of this story here.)
Incognito was suspended for several games, while Martin was away from football for the rest of the season. He said he'd lost the desire to play, and many pundits wondered aloud if any team in the league would want a player who was "soft."
But at least one team definitely does. The San Francisco 49ers traded for Martin on Tuesday, in a move that reunites him with Jim Harbaugh, who was his coach at Stanford and has been a vocal supporter of Martin's since the bullying story began.
Martin — who was already near the Niners headquarters in Santa Clara, taking classes at Stanford — tweeted about the trade yesterday.
The bullying episode prompted the NFL to investigate, which it did with gusto, interviewing dozens of Dolphins players and employees and publishing a much-discussed 140-page report on its findings last month.
Slate's Emily Bazelon, who's written a book about bullying, said that the report could be a watershed moment for the NFL, potentially changing the way we talk about bullying.
The investigators' 140-plus page report on the events leading up to Jonathan Martin's departure from the team is judicious, persuasive, and a public service. Carefully sifting through the evidence, it concludes that Richie Incognito and two teammates who acted as his henchmen humiliated and harassed Martin, another unnamed teammate, and an assistant trainer for months in ways that no employee should have to endure. This report should be required reading in management courses and for anyone who wonders how ugly, demeaning, and corrosive treatment can lie beneath a façade of "all in good fun" workplace "teasing."
The Dolphins fired their offensive line coach and a trainer after the report was published.
As for Incognito? He became a free agent on Tuesday, and the Associated Press reported that the Dolphins aren't likely to re-sign him.