On February 23rd of this year, former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, posted a story on Instagram a picture of a gun with the high school he attended, the Dolphins, former teammate Richie Incognito, and a couple of other people tagged in it. In the caption it said “When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.”
Many may remember an incident with Martin when he was with the Dolphins about five years ago when the team asked Incognito to toughen up Martin and when doing so he bullied Martin calling him the derogatory term for an African-American and did several other horrible things. However, it showed a problem that is not only deeply engrained in sports, but in our culture. It showed that bullying still persists. We all talk about combating it, including our first lady, but with the new age in the internet, bullying is alive and well.
Another thing to consider is mental health. Bullying does take a toll on one’s mental health. When you are constantly being harassed, there is always a breaking point. But the question is what happens when you reach it. There are some people who can take it because mentally they are strong, but there are some who are not quite that way. Martin falls in that category.
I was bullied a lot when I was in school. I was small and weak so I was a perfect target for a bully. It wasn’t great in elementary school, but I got through it. The worst was in high school. There was one kid who did not like me at all for whatever reason and I was their target. They created a fake profile of me on Facebook and impersonated me in a group that was dedicated to the future college I was about to attend. Luckily enough, people who I was about to attend college with, figured out that it was a fake. That person did some damage, but it wasn’t enough. It actually became a joke among some people I went to school with. But this person really had a vendetta against me as he tried hard to ruin my life. Eventually that person went away, but the emotional scars were there.
I was also on my high school basketball team, which the same kid played on, but he wasn’t the only one on my squad who were flat out mean to me. There were times they got in my face and that’s when my breaking point came, but it could have been much worse as I would just push them. No punches thrown, nothing too serious. I know why they disliked me (or at least had a great idea of why they didn’t), albeit it was very ridiculous as to why they were. In fact, it was hypocritical as I was essentially a benchwarmer and they were upset when my coach praised my work integrity. It was immature and childish, but it was high school. Things might have been different now, but at the time it was ridiculous.
I did bend, but did not break. While there were times I thought about quitting to just get away from their shenanigans, I thought to myself “Then they would win,” and decided to not do so.
Others are not lucky though as this is a serious issue in our country. I would love to see the research about the correlation with mental health and bullying as someone who has experienced it, it’s not a fun thing to go through. I’m not an expert in psychology, but what I do know is that bullying takes a toll on mental health even as evidenced with Jonathan Martin, who even admitted a month after retiring that the reason why he decided to leave the sport was because of mental health struggles and suicide attempts. What happened with Martin was absolutely scary and it shows how fragile the human mind really is. Playing sports should be fun and it should be able to allow anyone to get away from bullying, but as evidenced, it does not. Maybe we should as coaches and teammates try to help end bullying in sports by calling it out. Bullying should have no place in sports let alone our culture as it shows it could hurt someone’s mental health. Sports are meant to be fun and no one should have to be harassed in it.
*Here’s a link detailing the whole story