TOJ – Sidelines Episode 1: Bullying & Incognito

In the first episode of TOJ’s Sidelines Series, Staff Writer Dalbin Osorio provides his opinion on the Richie Incognito bullying story.

In this new series from TOJ, we will provide an opinion on an off the field issue taking place in the NFL. These opinions are from the individual authors and not Turn On The Jets as a site. The game we all love is played inside the sidelines 100 yards at a time, but the men standing on the sidelines and their actions are just as important. If there are any topics you’d like to read about from us, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments. Welcome to Sidelines.

In this age of social media and social networking, the gift and the curse is that you get everyone’s opinions in 140 characters or less right away. Once the facts start pouring in, you’re able to then see people openly backtrack or go full steam ahead because their initial thoughts have now become fact. Twitter, especially, is the world’s largest open mic. It’s you in an empty room with the entire world observing you from above.

You saw the power of Twitter, and social media, once again when news broke that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito had bullied fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. Incognito, known to all New York Jets fans everywhere, has had a reputation as a “dirty player” for the last 11 years and teammates have said that Incognito’s the kind of guy you want on your team but would hate him if he was on another team. As the story has unfolded, more layers have been peeled back. When the story was first released, Incognito took to the same social media weapon that would later release his voicemails and threats to Martin to defend himself and demand that his name be cleared. Adam Schefter then used Twitter to defend himself against Incognito by releasing transcripts of the voicemails Incognito left Martin.

Now, its being alleged that Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland (the same one who asked Dez Bryant during the draft combine if his Mother was a prostitute) told Martin’s agent that Martin should fight Incognito in order to deal with the bullying and that it was Coach Philbin that told Incognito to toughen Martin up.

Today, a former Miami Dolphin offensive lineman spoke to the Monday Morning Quarterback and defended Incognito’s character while stating that Martin was never bullied. On social networks everywhere, each of these different layers generated different reactions. Some of the ones I read stated that “you have to toughen up the weakest link” while others stated that “even if this was the norm, it wasn’t normal to Martin.” One person even said that “Martin’s soft cause he’s from the University of Stanford” like Richard Sherman didn’t go to Stanford too. People humorously wondered if Incognito was spending time with Riley Cooper when the TMZ video of Incognito calling Martin the “n” word surfaced, and Incognito was now labeled a bigot and a racist.

Some people tweeted that Incognito was an honorary black guy. Then, the Dolphins paraded Tyson Clabo, Ryan Tannehill, and Brian Hartline before cameras to defend Incognito and Martin’s friendship and try to normalize what went on in the Dolphins locker room. The words “it goes on in every locker room” and “Martin should’ve kept that in house” and “Martin and Richie were best friends” swept the bottom line of ESPN. Yet, the one person we haven’t heard from is the victim of what could quite possibly be one of the biggest oversights by a coach in recent memory. Martin has reportedly checked into a hospital in California to deal with the trauma he experienced at the hands of Incognito. What does it all mean?

For starters, thanks to the very same social media that has been at the epicenter of this entire story bullying has increased over the last 10 years. A recent study showed that 42% of youth have been bullied while online. People say things to each other on social media that they may never think to say in person. Second, an old school mentality still permeates through society that real men don’t cry and that you’re not a real man unless you have thick skin and can use your fists to defend yourself.

Some General Managers called Jonathan Martin a coward for dealing with this situation the way he has thus far. Others stated how this younger “Glee” generation won’t survive in this world until they learn how to defend themselves how society believes they should. Very few have mentioned how bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.

We spend so much time trying to tear each other down with racial slurs, homophobic comments, and unprovoked threats and then wonder why so many young people commit suicide. If Jonathan Martin commits suicide, the same social networks that outed Incognito as a bigot will criticize Martin for “being a coward.” Instead of spending so much time discussing what led Incognito to think it was OK to utter a racial slur or what stopped Martin from actually asking the Dolphins coaches to intervene, why don’t we ask ourselves why our society makes these things possible? Instead of trying to build up who you have perceived as the weakest link, why not improve yourself so there is no weakest link in your circle.? You are the company you keep.

See you on the sidelines next time Jet fans.

Author: Dalbin Osorio

Dalbin Osorio is a Case Planner for Graham-Windham, New York's oldest child welfare agency. He is, also, a student at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Dalbin graduated from Monroe College with a degree in Business Administration. A 3 sport utility man in high school (think a mix of Jerome WIlliams, Brad Smith, and Jayson Nix), he joined TOJ in 2013.