Displays of Power – Jonathan Martin and Pranks within the Dolphin’s Locker Room

3 Dec

martinJonathan Martin, a player on the Miami Dolphins, recently stepped down from the team due to how he was treated on the team.  While there might be differences between a football locker room, and other work cultures, we need to remember that football was not simply a game, but it was also his job, so his story is really one that we can all relate to.

A job where he was expected to pay for the food, beverages, and vacations of others.  A job where he was treated poorly because he was new to his position.  A job where he was purposefully isolated.  This type of workplace behavior would not be tolerated in most businesses, and should not be tolerated in professional sports.

While the specifics of any case like this can cause much debate, the concept of how our masculinity affects our workplace behavior is important.

I find the excuses given for this type of behavior in this situation to be lacking.

1.  Just being boys.

First can I ask a simple question, “How old are these boys?” Their prank of leaving the table when Martin arrived, reminded me of typical behavior in a junior high lunchroom.  Why is there no shame or remorse for their immature behavior?  I oppose the line of thinking that “men never really grow up.”  Let us raise the expectations upon ourselves and each other.  We should not accept poor behavior because they are “boys” at any age.

We must also acknowledge the deeper motivator for this type of behavior.  Most pranks are not simply boyish behavior designed for laughter, but are struggles over power and position.  No one wants to be at the bottom of the totem pole.  No one wants to be a “Jerry” (from Parks and Recreation).  In order to establish that you are not at the bottom, you must make others look as if the belong there.  Teasing, out-performing socially, and pranking others is especially helpful in this process.

As men of faith, we should examine our relationships, and how we seek to establish ourselves within our communities.  Power Corrupts.  Seeking power is dangerous especially when we advance ourselves at the expense of others.

 2.  Tough Love.

Some people believe that Incognito was simply a veteran leader who was helping out a younger player – a player who needed help surviving.  I loathe this concept – that it is our job to help others develop thicker skin by harassing, teasing, and demanding things.  Although used occasionally in Christian circles, it is little less than Christ-like.

When did thick-skinned become a virtue to be sought after?  I understand that we should not be swayed by the opinions of others – that is biblical.  But there is another aspect of this concept that says, we should become emotionally detached from behaviors (either our own or others).  Emotional detachment is not always the first step towards healthy living.

As men of faith, let us strive for real love and kindness.

There is also an assumption that those who are younger need tough love as part of GROWING UP?  A crucial piece is that those older in the community are helping those who are younger.  Can I propose a new perspective?  I see it as those who have lived in an unhealthy environment for too long, are used to it, and are now acclimating you to do the same.

Which leads me to my third point…

3.  Team Loyalty

Are you a turncoat if you stand up and ask for change?  Especially in Christian circles, there is a pressure to not “rock the boat” or cause dissention.  Shouldn’t we live for unity above all things?  While unity is important, it is not the highest goal.  Communities that call for following leadership and current culture at any cost are breeding spots for abuse (especially in the church when that leadership is God-ordained).

Should Martin be called a traitor or a hero?  There may be various opinions for years to come.  This event has brought a chance to change a broken system.  A hero is one who has the strength to stand up, risking everything to bring to light a system that is broken.

If the investigation is done well, I believe that they will discover this was not a failure of an individual, but of the entire system.  Regardless, of whether a formal complaint was filed or not.  I find it incredulous that any Dolphin player or member of the organization was not aware of the culture of the community.  The problem was known, and was ignored.  The pressure upon the NFL is that if it acts then it will have to change a culture, and not simply solve a problem.  I personally find it difficult to believe that the flamboyant touchdown celebrations (which are penalized), are more dangerous to the sport and individuals than the apparent culture of their locker rooms.

As men of faith, let us be ready to stand against injustice within our communities.

I am waiting for someone on the Dolphin Team to be a man.  To stand up and say that their behavior towards others has been less than kind, lacking in maturity, and should be changed.

However, I am not holding my breath.

Until then, I will examine my own life.  I want my communities to be free of power struggles, over-flowing with real love, and ready to stand against injustice.

photoDr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources.   He grew a beard for “No-shave” November that he found very itchy and shaved on December 1.

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