Name Calling, Insults and Teasing

A Guide To Anger, Conflict and Respect

N.F.L. Bullying: The Real Reason for it

N.F.L.Yesterday, my post discussed a New York Times article titled “In Bullying Case, Questions on N.F.L. Culture.”  There we learned that what are being called pranks by some and humiliating behavior by others is ubiquitous in the N.F.L.  What is the reason for it?

The Times article tried to throw some  light on this when it stated that “Most incidents 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.”  Hmmm.  If the coaches and executives really believe this, what is the reason for their “tacit” approval.  Why not openly encourage this type of behavior?  I think it’s because they realize that there is something not quite right with this explanation.  And if this explanation is not quite right, what is a better one?

We get a clue from the Times’s report when it indicates that the behavior designed to humiliate the rookies is viewed by the veterans as being done “in all good fun” is “entertaining” and leads to “a room full of laughing teammates.”  What would account for the veterans enjoying humiliating the rookies so much?

Here’s what I think.  Veterans recognize that the rookies are after their jobs.  When Joe Quarterback sees a fresh new quarterback on  the team, he says to himself, After all my hard work and effort and all of the damaging blows that I’ve taken for the team, now this young son-of-a bitch wants to take my job.

It seems to me that there is an undercurrent of resentment that comes to most players in this type of situation.  Couple this with the fact that there are always far fewer guys on the team who are rookies, thus making the youngest players a clear minority.  With this combination, we end up with the very same motivation of why so many southerners persecuted blacks for so many years.  Many southerners realized that if blacks were to be treated equally, they would end up competing for the limited jobs in their area.  When blacks were humiliated, those who were doing the persecution found it funny.

In psychology, there is a theory called the “downward comparison theory.” It posits that persons experiencing negative affect can enhance their subjective well-being through comparison with a less fortunate other, the process occurring on either a passive or active basis.  When it is on an active basis, people actively try to create the conditions for others to be less fortunate.  This explains why people persecute others, and it is the real reason why the majority of players are persecuting the younger ones.

To claim, however tacitly, that the humiliating treatment of some in the N.F.L. is to help those being humiliated to develop their character is no different than if white racists claimed they were persecuting blacks out of the goodness of their hearts because they were really seeking to benefit blacks.

selma marchIt is high time that all of us come to understand that to persecute anyone is wrong, period!  Whether we are rookies, blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, rich or poor, we can all be harmed by prejudice.  It is only by standing strong together as true Americans, that we can transform irrational hatred to wise understanding.


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.


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5 thoughts on “N.F.L. Bullying: The Real Reason for it

  1. Mike Gilmartin on said:

    Not much to argue against here. In my reading of articles surrounding this issue, I find it interesting that in a league/workplace where 80% of the workers/players are African-American, the prevalent use of the word, “nigger,” is apparently acceptable and Incognito used it in his emails to Martin. The irony here is that Icognito is white and Martin black, yet Incognito is receiving a shocking amount of support from black players. What gives??? Supposedly, some African-American teammates consider him one of the “brothers” and thus argue that he has the right to use the term!!! Conversely, Martin is a graduate of a prestigious university, Stanford, has had a stable and supportive family, but is considered by some to be “soft” and needed to be “toughened up.”

  2. Hi Mike Gilmartin, It is amazing how culture differences can have such an influence on behavior. I’ll be interested to learn more about what happened. I do hope that the discussion will lead to getting rid of hazing of rookies.

  3. I know often times people insult and put down others (on sports teams and in other environments as well) because they see other people, often times others they look up to doing the same. When I joined the varsity baseball team in high school all of the older kids would “rip on each other” all the time and the overt understanding was that it “was all in good fun.” It certainly wasn’t true though and often kids would harbor a lot of negative thoughts toward their harassers. I believe that humans have a tendency to behave how is modeled for them by others they looks up to. If someone were to join a team where the veterans stood up to insults and bullying and treated teammates with respect, I can’t imagine their bullying tendencies would persevere for long….

  4. I agree with you, JSR, that the culture can be changed, and one of the most effective way to change it is to have leaders model respectful treatment toward all of the players.

  5. Pingback: Bullying in the NFL: How to Change its Culture | Name Calling, Insults and Teasing

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