The N.F.L. Culture and Bullying
We just finished up National Bullying Prevention Month. Throughout October, after far too many suicides because of bullying, numerous organizations banned together to do what they could to change a culture. What they tried to accomplish is far from easy.
The difficulty is that our culture is filled with examples of people telling us that insults can be the mother of invention. If you are challenged by insults, you can get charged up and prove a thing or two to the insulter, and before you even realized it you have done something very positive.
On “60 Minutes” this Sunday, we learned that Ferruccio Lamborghini was originally a maker of tractors, but was dissatisfied with the clutch of a car he bought. And so when he designed a fix for the car and explained it to the car manufacturer, he felt insulted when the head of the manufacturer dismissed his suggestion by saying he should stick to making tractors. This riled Ferruccio up. But instead of doing what many immature people do when riled up, such as throwing insults back at the insulter or throwing a fist, Ferruccio set to work on making a better car then the insulter. And from many accounts, Mr. Lamborghini did just that.
Absent from the “60 Minutes” story was any discussion about when insults go so far that it is far more likely to have negative consequences than positive ones.
Now we learn from the New York Times that we are about to have a new national discussion about this. Apparently what are being called pranks by some and humiliating behavior by others is ubiquitous in the N.F.L., especially when the older players interact with rookies. According to Jets offensive tackle Austin Howard, “Everybody’s done it. It’s all in good fun. And then the next year, they’re going to do it to the guy who’s there the next year.”
“Most incidents,” says the Times, “come with tacit, unsupervised approval of coaches and executives, who see the pranks as a rite of passage, a worthy bit of team building and character strengthening.” However, it now appears that at least one player has perhaps taken this type of behavior too far.
Richie Incognito, a 300-pound offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins has been hit with at least a temporary suspension for perhaps being a downright bully. Miami coach, Joe Philbin, explaining the reason for the suspension, stated, “If the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures necessary to make sure that it is.”
“A safe atmosphere?” That’s Philbin’s standard for stepping over the line when it comes to “pranks.” Veteran Jets guard describes his standard. “Any time a guy feels disrespected and like he can’t go to work and feel comfortable, that’s when you can’t have that in the locker.”
It is too early to know all of the details of what led to Mr. Incognito’s suspension. But many of us who are concerned about bullying hope that this incident will lead to a national conversation about an issue that deserves to be discussed even if National Bullying Prevention Month has come and gone.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.