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Bullying in the NFL: How Much a Part of the Culture is This?

The recent revelation concerning bullying within the Miami Dolphins organization has led us to question whether this type of behavior is a part of team and locker room culture or is it an individual event? The circumstances that surround the ongoing taunting and harassment of Jonathan Martin is an indication that greater problems could exist not only within this organization but the league as well. It is important to establish that the concern of this behavior goes beyond a simple incident to an overall question of the status of the climate that exists within the team concept. Bullying historically is not established as an isolated incident, but a repeated pattern of abuse. One would find it hard to believe that grown men under an established leadership with foundations of individual expectations would feel free to get to the point of hostile and bi-racial slurs. The belief that this is simply an issue of “men being men” would allow us to excuse a man’s behavior in most workplace and group settings. I have learned through the years that culture sets climate. What is allowed and accepted by the leadership of any organization, whether it be a business or a sports team, actually becomes the cornerstone of the expected behavior. If individuals are not expected to maintain a level of professionalism as they go about their duties within any organization, then behavioral issues tend to shortly follow. The need to set the tone to impact or change a culture of bullying and aggressive behavior begins at the top. The concept of “team” in our society in pure definition is meant to overcome a lack of civility through a connectedness toward competition. Our team mates are central to being successful in this competition. Racial slurs become more than an issue of making men tough. It goes to the heart of the issue of human rights in a society which is guided by certain established principles. This should translate in the eyes of leadership of any organization that “right is right” and “wrong is wrong.”

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