Episode 108: Bullying, the NFL, and Sports Culture

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The NFL has been rocked over the past two weeks in the wake of a series of revelations concerning bullying within the Miami Dolphins organization, revelations that have reignited the debate concerning what constitutes abuse within the sub-culture of sports. In this episode of the Smells Like Human Spirit Podcast, Guy Evans outlines the underlying issues and asks if the sports world has some catching up to do with the rest of society.


NFL Bullying Scandal

On October 30, Jonathan Martin, a second-year offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, suffered an “emotional breakdown,” seemingly triggered by a lunchtime prank pulled by his teammates.

According to reports, Martin has been the victim of a sustained period of bullying by one teammate in particular, Richie Incognito, since his rookie season in the league. This torment included intimidation on and off the field, including racist voicemail messages and what can only be described as extortion.


Chris Gasper of the Boston Globe writes that “the game must evolve past the idea that hazing, intimidating, or belittling teammates is a necessary part of NFL team-building. It’s not.”

“NFL players need to stand up and recognize hazing and bullying for what it is and recognize that society has evolved. Now, their locker rooms have to evolve along with it.”


The case has raised awareness of the “rookie tax”, a custom in which new players do monetary favors for older ones.

A ‘Rookie’ tax, according to former Dolphins player OJ McDuffie, is a relatively new term. “We just called it paying your dues as a rookie,” said McDuffie. “It happens at every team in every position and it was happening before I got there.”

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Berman, T. (2013). A non sports fan’s guide to the racist abuse scandal consuming the NFL. Gawker.com. November 12th 2013.

Gasper, C. (2013). NFL must take a stand on bullying and hazing. The Boston Globe. November 11th 2013.

Jeansonne, J. (2013). Hazing is rooted in the sports culture. Newsday. November 9th 2013.

Geoghegan, T. (2013). Is there really a ‘rookie tax’ in American football? BBC News. November 8th 2013.

The NFL’s Bully Problem. DemocracyNow.org. November 8th 2013.

Beasley, A. (2013). Sources: Miami Dolphins rookies pushed to pay up. Miami Herald. November 4th 2013.

Mortensen, C. and Shefter, A. (2013). Jonathan Martin fears retribution. ESPN.com. November 3rd 2013.

Torre, P.S. (2009). How (and why) athletes go broke. Sports Illustrated. March 23rd 2009.

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