Dick Lyles: No double standard when it comes to bullying

By Dick Lyles

The controversy surrounding allegations that Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito bullied teammate Jonathan Martin is yet another example that many Americans, including many in leadership positions, don’t understand the most fundamental concepts of interpersonal respect.

Dick Lyles

The issues of hazing, harassment, bullying, practical joking, assault, intimidation, and the like, have all become so scrambled that it is hard to find anyone having a coherent discussion about them. We need a reasoned discussion leading to responsible guidelines that can be implemented nationally to ensure people everywhere are treated with dignity and respect and that everyone is safe from bullying, intimidation and actions directed toward them that can be either physically or psychology injurious.

I know about hazing, having survived Plebe Year at the U.S. Naval Academy. The hazing we endured was intense, seven days a week, from reveille to taps, even during meals. There were strict rules and guidelines (sometimes not followed) and the stress was both physical and mental. Some midshipmen couldn’t handle it.

Two years after graduation, at the age of 24, I was assigned the role of General Quarters Officer of the Deck responsible in combat for the lives of 390 sailors. I appreciated having the ability to process complex information from multiple sources and make good decisions, even though the physical and mental stresses were enormous. We engaged in direct combat on five different occasions without loss of life, or serious injury. Even though I hated my Plebe hazing, I believe it helped me perform better as a naval officer later.

But there is a big difference between the hazing endured by Plebes at the military academies and the kind of bullying behavior attributed to Richie Incognito. Bullying is not hazing. Bullying is not practical joking. Nor is hazing an excuse to extort tens of thousands of dollars, make personal threats, or launch racial slurs.

A student at Poway High was arrested this past week for allegedly making terrorist threats against other students. It appears the threats Incognito made against Martin were equally as substantive. In other words, if the allegations are true, we are talking about felony criminal behavior. Not to mention the civil rights violations and extortion.

If the coaches encouraged Incognito to bully Martin because “he wasn’t tough enough,” then they should be fired. If coaches have a problem with a player’s toughness, the coaches should deal with it. That’s what they’re paid for. But Martin’s attorney made the most important point: “Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not at issue. Jonathan has started every game with the Miami Dolphins (before his departure) since he was drafted in 2012. At Stanford, he was the anchor for Jim Harbaugh’s ‘smash-mouth’ brand of football and he protected Andrew Luck’s blind side. The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing.”

If head coach Joe Philbin had no knowledge of the harassment, then he and his assistant coaches should be fired. Likewise, if others on the team knew about and tolerated this behavior, they are lousy teammates, destined to be losers. It appears no one involved has a clue about how to create a winning environment.

Let’s get rid of the double standard. Bullying, threats, extortion, racial discrimination can be neither tolerated nor excused because they took place in an NFL locker room. It is wrong to rationalize abusive behavior because football is a brutal sport. Everyone should treat others with respect and every leader must ensure basic standards of respect are maintained — regardless of the setting.

Lyles, a Poway resident, is a business/management consultant and best-selling author. Reader comments, through letters to the editor or online, are encouraged.

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Posted by Staff on Nov 14 2013. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Comments for “Dick Lyles: No double standard when it comes to bullying”

  1. Frank

    Hazing involves physical and psychological abuse, intimidation, harassment, coercion, etc. Bullying involves the same reprehensible conduct. There is no appreciable difference between the two. The idea that if someone is tough enough and survives hazing / bullying it's good, and if someone isn't tough enough and doesn't survive bullying / hazing it is bad – is absurd.

    • Amy Roost

      I agree with you, Frank. However there was a good discussion with players (former and current) on Sunday's NFL Today on just this topic (hazing v bullying) and they made some distinctions that made sense. Talked about breaking a rookie (and his ego) down only to build him up again. But by breaking down they were talking about having the rookie deliver breakfast sandwiches to the older guys (humbling a young man who is accustomed to "having it all" in college). NOT, calling him names or threatening his safety. The NFL is a strange and sometimes brutal culture to be sure, but I was surprised and please by how outspoken each of these players were about the inappropriateness of Incognito's behavior–especially Shannon Sharp. If you get a chance look it up on YouTube or CBS.com. I will say this…there is a lot more to come on this story. I think there was a cover up on the part of the Dolphins' management and heads are gonna roll.

      • Frank

        So those who bully and haze have sufficient intelligence to determine the sensitivity of their victims and how much is too much for each of them? Is the psychological damage and in many cases, resulting physical injury and even, in some cases, death from hazing and bullying an 'acceptable risk' to allow the practice anyway? Do sports coaches, among the more stellar intellects in the IQ firmament, have the sense ability to direct or allow 'proper' hazing and bullying as a solution to someones perceived ego problem? What about the character of those non-rookie players who acquiesce to the hazing by taking the food and becoming accessories to the abominable practice?

        Breaking down someone in order to get them to do or be what you want them to be is called torture. Anyone who believes in any form of that as a means which justifies any end has no business having authority or control over anyone.

        • Amy Roost

          Hey Frank, I know! Maybe we should have the Obama administration regulate bullying and hazing?

          Or maybe we should just be responsible for our own experience and accountable for our actions. I think most people know when to stop or when they've gone too far, even if their intentions were good. And when they don't stop, that is when management (bosses) step in. That's why the get paid the "big bucks". Good natured ribbing could be seen as bullying by someone who is highly sensitive and as comical by someone who is not. It's a personal call that needs to be made on a case by case basis.

          Just to be clear, I in no way think what Incognito did was good-natured ribbing nor do I condone what's been reported in the case. I'm just saying that there is a need for personal judgment and responsibility and when that fails, a need for someone in authority to step in and put an end to the transgression.

  2. guest

    Why is bullying so bad? Obama bullies everybody that has a perspective different than his. Plenty of examples. BTW, we are now well over 17 Trillion dollars in debt now. Thank you Obama.

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