In the Mix

November 5, 2013

The NFL in the 21st Century

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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The NFL is imploding. It’s latest scandal: Racial discrimination, intimidation and hostile work environment. Parties in question: The Miami Dolphins and linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.

Jonathan Martin is a rookie offensive lineman for the Dolphins and Richie Incognito is a senior lineman. Martin has alleged that Incognito harassed him to the point that he had to leave the team.

Martin is with his parents; Incognito is under suspension. Incognito and some Dolphin players say it was all in good fun – boys being boys in the locker room. Martin has voicemails from Incognito using very strong language. Incognito acknowledges the voicemails and says he thought it was the nature of their relationship. Martin says it went too far. Now there’s going to be an investigation…

Here’s what needs to be considered:

The NFL is a business. Multi-billion dollar business. The football field is their workplace as is the locker room and their practice fields. The United States of American is governed by labor laws that protect workers IN the workplace. There should be an investigation and the details should be scrutinized in the same way any other workplace would be scrutinized.

Of note: Several of the Dolphins – including Incognito – have said the locker room of a football club is a different environment and shouldn’t be judged based on standards for other workplaces. I guess the first question has to be, “Do you collect a paycheck for doing a job?” Followed by, “If so, do you have a responsibility to act accordingly?”

Backing up: How many NFL player have been interviewed and proclaimed that what they do is not just a game – it’s their profession. They go to work everyday like everyone else and what they do deserves to be respected as a valid profession.

So which is it? Boys horsing around in the locker room or a valid workplace?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who said what makes sense; These are adult men who collect large paychecks to play a game. They should be ashamed of themselves attempting to excuse away the use of racial epithets in ANY environment.

We also need to be mindful of where we are today in the fight against bullying. Many football player – whether they deserve it or not – are inspirations to growing kids. Setting a good example in your official capacity should not be excused away in the name of innocent fun. Innocent locker room fun is snapping someone with a towel, not calling them the N word at work. There’s a difference…

I also discussed this with a lawyer who reminded me that assault is merely the threat of violence – not actual violence. Actual violence is battery. So, by definition, Incognito has committed a crime simply by the expression that he would harm/kill Martin, his sister or his family.

I’m going to deduce that the NFL will find that a football club is to be held to the same standards as any other workplace – Save the “all in good fun” for your personal time.

Liability is too high on all fronts. Sensitivities are heightened and regulations have to take front and center. What used to be okay can’t be anymore and turning a blind eye gets you fired and sued.

I think this is another hard lesson for the NFL. It’s a new century and boy are they feeling it. The health risks… Drug abuse… bounty’s and gambling. We just don’t live in that kind of world anymore…