Guest Author - Sue Walsh
When NFL offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left his team, unable to take any more of the bullying heíd been subjected to, itís unlikely he knew heíd be shedding a whole new light on bullying and indirectly helping many of his fellow victims.
Martin had what was described as an emotional breakdown and left the team, saying he had been tormented by abusive and racist texts and voicemails sent by teammate Richie Incognito. After an initial investigation, Incognito, who has a dark history and was previously labeled one of the leagueís dirtiest players, was suspended. After the news about Martin broke, reports surfaced that a young rookie on the team, who was not named, went broke after being forced to cover extravagant dinner tabs for senior team members, at least one which totaled over $30,000.
Reactions came swiftly. Some ridiculed Martin, saying he should get over it, others expressed disbelief that an NFL lineman could be bullied at all. Many of his teammates came out in defense of Incognito, but do they really know what went on between the two teammates? Probably not. Regardless of what side you fall on, one thing is clear, Martinís decision to come forward has forced many to realize that bullying can happen to anyone. It happens on the playground, in the workplace, on the field, online-everywhere. Furthermore, the fact that the NFL and the Miami Dolphins take the matter very seriously gives schools and workplaces no excuse for not doing the same. If a man like Jonathan Martin broke under the strain, why are we surprised or scornful when a teenager reaches their breaking point and sees suicide as the only way out?
Many say Jonathan Martinís NFL career is over, that no one will want him on their team. I donít believe this is true and I hope itís not. If he is allowed to return to the league with a new team and does well, it will serve as proof to millions of bullied children, teens and adults that speaking up works and things will get better. Martinís strength could give strength to those without such a powerful voice. We can only hope it does. It's time.