We tell our children that they should neither bully others nor allow themselves to be bullied. We hold instructive classes teaching our children how bullying is a destructive practice that can only lead to bad things. In extreme instances, children and young adults end up taking their own lives after relentless bullying either in person or via the internet pushes them beyond the limits of rational thought.
The news of Miami Dolphins' offensive lineman, Richie Incognito, bullying teammate Jonathan Martin should come as no shock. While it is true that neither Richie nor Jonathan are in middle school or high school, serious bullying behavior was going on to the point that Martin had to distance himself from Incognito by leaving the team and missing last Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
I'm not surprised that this bullying went on between grown adults. I'd bet that to varying degrees, bullying behavior goes on in workplace environments more than we'd like to believe. What I'm surprised about is that Martin's teammates did nothing to stop the bullying. It is almost impossible to miss the signs of bullying in a close-knit environment like a team locker room. Whether Martin's teammates decided not to step in to defend him against Incognito or if they actively participated in the bullying, they must be held responsible for the torment Martin went through.
We teach our children to stand up to injustices and help those in need. We insist that the weak among us are protected against predators and that bullies are brought to justice. The Miami Dolphins organizations and Jonathan Martin's teammates let him down in an extremely profound manner. By not watching out for Jonathan Martin's back, they allowed Richie Incognito to prey on an emotionally weaker individual and failed to embrace their teammate and do the right thing. I am relieved that Jonathan decided to go public instead of dealing with his personal anguish privately and possibly hurting himself.
The Westchester Jewish Council is proud to take a "zero tolerance" position when it comes to bullying. Jewish tradition teaches us that it is our responsibility to care for the stranger among us and to protect the weak. This incident in the Miami Dolphins locker room should serve as an example of what not to do. We should take this opportunity to sit with our children and make sure they understand that there is no place for bullying in a civilized society and that we expect them to speak up when they witness this behavior among their peers. Our children should view Jonathan Martin as the victim and a hero for speaking up. They should view Richie Incognito as the bully and thug that he is. It should be Richie Incognito and the bullies like him who are ostracized from our society.