I guess it was just a matter of time, but cyberbullying allegations, headlines and a player suspension have made their way into the realm of professional sports.
The player accused is Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito, who is charged with making cyberbullying threats toward younger team mate Jonathan Martin via text and voice message.
Incognito has a history of troubling behavior. In 2009, he was voted the NFL’s dirtiest player, and he was twice suspended in college for inappropriate conduct. In the current incident, which was initially downplayed as boys being boys, or at worst an incident of rookie hazing, the accusations and alleged evidence are quite damning, and include racial epithets and death threats.
A couple of pictures from Incognito’s for-now public Instagram account gives one some insight into what he thinks of rookies, and probably weaker players. He doesn’t appear to be at all apologetic about his attitude.
We frequently tell parents that they need to be the front life of defense in preventing cyberbullying, but there are no parents in the NFL. There are, however, coaches and team management, who were either unaware of the issues or chose to ignore them.
Athletes in our society find themselves in a unique situation – fans, whether they are adults or young people, put them on a pedestal, and their behavior is far more often celebrated than criticized. If the NFL fails to do a full investigation and levy an appropriate punishment, not only will they fail to send the right message to Dolphins management and the other teams, but young fans will fail to get the message that cyberbullying is wrong and people need to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of who holds the power.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.