Folks, Bullygate is worst than I expected. It’s not about bullying, being black, and the hazing culture anymore. The alarming issue that I took away is the teams’ and the league’s ability to handle mental health maladies among players.
Feel free to read the full Wells report and make your own judgments afterwards. From what I read, however, I don’t think teammates were prepared to handle Jonathan Martin’s mental health issues, especially since some of the players constantly taunt J-Mart. The front office and coaching staff seemed to turn the other way as well. Even an assistant coach joined in on taunting the assistant trainer, and who knows, he might have picked on J-Mart behind his back too.
Today, when we have have issues, we are recommended to go seek professional help. We talk to somebody about our problems. We do yoga or exercises or meditation sessions to clear our minds. We pray to high powers.
At least that’s what the workplace is teaching us to do for the most part. We may live in the 21st century, but the way NFL players deal with mental health issues is as archaic as how we used to travel 150 years ago. I never played a down in the NFL and college, but I played organized sports before. In some locker rooms, crying to people about your problems is a “bitch ass move.” It’s socially unacceptable to break down and cry. Either you toughen up and keep your problems to yourself or quit. To the Miami Dolphins, Martin is a punk because he chose to leave instead of confronting the situation head-on. Also, if you’re picked on, the unwritten locker room rule is: defend yourself, or else, quit.
I don’t know if that’s an healthy environment for players who prefer seeking help and alternative means of handling mental issues. No wonder why some players are beginning to dislike the NFL. You can feel alone, even in a team setting, if you’re different from the “typical, social” player and don’t respond as well to certain situations as other players.
I would love to dig in the matter further, because it’s intertwined with other societal topics, such as racism and classism. But even as write this brief blog, I think the report itself convinced me to speak out.
And this have even more scary possibilities. If NFL teams are inadequate in dealing with mental health issues, then how they will handle players with developmental disabilities, such as autism and Down’s Syndrome? I would like like to write about Bullygate’s potential impact on autistic people seeking to play college or professional sports.
Let’s hope the Wells report will open professional sports teams’ eyes to mental health topics more seriously.