In light of an incident involving the NFL’s Miami Dolphins a conversation on bullying and hazing in the NFL is going on. The conversation is as hypocritical as the one, that found New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator and coach suspended last year for placing bounties on players from opposing teams. People knew it existed, but did nothing until there was a public outcry.
Fraternities and sororities have traditionally hazed. Playing sports is like joining a fraternity. And none is larger than the NFL. How big is the fraternity, how powerful? Big and powerful enough for years to keep former football players from suing for head trauma even though they knew their insomnia, mood swings, depression, suicides, and other maladies were caused from playing football? Powerful enough to convince them that there was an unwritten code, you don’t sue the NFL.
The players didn’t sue, and why didn’t the fans stand up and say more for their favorite players? Was it because they love to watch the gladiators do battle on the field? And why wasn’t there an outcry when the NFL settled out of court for 750 million dollars and got away with language in the settlement absolving them of fault?
My point is bullying is in front of us all the time. Trayvon Martin was bullied and killed by George Zimmerman. If Zimmerman didn’t have a gun he wouldn’t have followed Trayvon, let alone confront him. The gun argument in America is about men needing to feel power. Most can only get it by threatening others usually because they have a gun or threaten that they do.
And police are among the biggest bullies. Oscar Grant III’s killing at Fruitvale Station and too many killings of unarmed citizens by police is bullying! So is Congressional failure to pass a Jobs Bill, and shutting down the government. It is bullying especially when you know others are victimized.
But what makes our country great and our history relevant, is that men and women at tumultuous times in our history found a reason to stand up to the bullies. Today, we read with pride their courageous stories. Whether it was Bull Connor’s firehoses, or laws that protected the institution of slavery, courageous men and women stood in the face of danger. This is what parents have to teach their children again, the spirit of not backing down.
Today, the conversation may be about Jonathan Martin and the insensitive criminal behavior of Richie Incognito. But the broader conversation should be, when will good people finally stand up and face the bullies in schools, sports and politics.
When are we as Fannie Lou Hamer said, going to be “sick and tired of being sick and tired?”