National Football League

By John McMullen, NFL Editor - Archive - Email
NFL culture bullies Jonathan Martin
Jonathan Martin Jonathan Martin went AWOL after reports surfaced that he suffered an emotional breakdown.
Philadelphia, PA ( - When you think of bullying, you are probably going to surmise that a 6-foot-5, 320-pound man isn't going to be the one pushed to the brink.

Yet, Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin went AWOL from his team on Monday after reports surfaced that an abusive environment caused the Stanford product to suffer what was described as an emotional breakdown. said a prank in the team cafeteria went awry and Martin "flipped out, smashed a food tray on the ground (and) took off."

The Miami Herald also confirmed the incident and reports the organization is concerned about the relationships Martin has cultivated with some of his teammates, claiming the struggling second-year player was tagged with the nickname of "The Big Weirdo" by his teammates back in 2012.

Bullying, of course, is a hot-topic issue around the country these days, especially in schools across the country where things like verbal harassment, threats and physical assaults have escalated into suicides.

It's a serious matter and FOX upped the ante by claiming Martin has been subjected to "excessive, over-the-top bullying," since arriving in South Beach as a second-round draft pick, something some of Martin's teammates vehemently denied after thrilling 22-20 walk-off win over Cincinnati on Thursday.

Fellow offensive lineman Nate Garner called the situation "normal stuff," according to The Palm Beach Post while others chimed in to say Martin wasn't facing anything out or the ordinary.

So. who is right here?

Was Martin bullied into mental submission or was he treated like everyone else in the locker room?

My best guess is both -- the bullies in this situation had no idea they were actually bullying, and Martin wasn't treated differently than any other quiet and perhaps shy teammate would be.

Anyone who has spent 10 minutes around athletes on any level knows the atmosphere isn't like a school or an office. There are plenty of Alpha Dog personalities on display, dispensing off-colored jokes and undertaking in plenty of ribbing, most of it good-natured and some of it rather mean-spirited and a tad dysfunctional.

As bad as "Big Weirdo" might seem to some of you, there are far worse monikers being thrown around in NFL locker rooms across the country every day.

And Monday's prank? How about getting up from the lunch table when Martin was the last to sit down.

Not exactly the relentless tormenting 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick faced in Florida when she decided to jump off an abandoned concrete factory back in September.

In that case, bully Guadalupe Shaw was so unmoved by what she caused, she fired off this gem of a Tweet after Sedwick's death:

"Yes IK (I know) I bullied REBECCA nd (sic) she killed her self but IDGAF (I don't give a expletive)."

Conversely Tyson Clabo, the right tackle who was benched for Martin when Miami acquired Bryant McKinnie to play on the left side, said he wanted Martin to return as soon as possible.

"I want him to come back to work. He's a talented young football player," the veteran said. "I can't say what he's feeling. I know if and when he wants to come back that I will be there to shake his hand."

Martin's meltdown likely stemmed from a confluence of issues related to poor performance, the daily grind of the NFL season and the purported bullying.

He simply needs to develop a thicker skin and understand words only have power if you let then have power, whether they are coming from the local sportstalk radio show or his own teammates.

NFL locker rooms simply aren't safe houses for sensitive people. In fact if acoustic alternative is your music of choice and you marvel at fireflies (hat tip to noted sensi Dr. John Dorian of Scrubs fame), you aren't going to have a lot in common with the Tyson Clabos and Nate Garners of the world.

Martin surely saw some of his previous teammates at Harvard-Westlake High School in North Hollywood or Stanford go through some of the very same stuff he endured in Davie.

That's not to say any of what was done in right or wrong for that matter -- it just is.

And that culture isn't about to change no matter what politically correct- issue is the flavor of the month.

Jonathan Martin can choose to deal with that or not.

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