Multiple Flags on the Play

The Miami Dolphins are currently embroiled in a bullying/harassment scandal.  A veteran player has been discovered to have repeatedly harassed a junior player by leaving him offensive voicemail messages and Twitter mentions, in addition to how he behaved when physically interacting with the junior player on the field/in the locker room/etc.  What separates the hazing of sports and the bullying of others, analysts and color commentators say, is a lack of community policing and its scope outside the field.  Cries asking for the whereabouts of coaches or the help of teammates have mostly gone unanswered, floating into the ether-like code of masculinity or sportsmanship.  But these are important questions.

Our increasingly digital world has helped bullying/harassment lose its open secret status.  No longer between victim and aggressor, Twitter/Youtube/and other media sites make sharing and shaming clickable actions with the possibility of reaching millions.  Is the best way to expose bullying/harassment through a global community and mass outrage?  Or, do we need more safe spaces, as proven through this victim’s purposeful silence?  What happens to the victim and the aggressor after all is said and done?

Gender enters this bullying/harassment discussion when the masculinity of the rookie comes into play.  Blog comment sections seesaw between listings of the younger player’s physical stats as proof that he should have and could have fought his bully off to conversations about workplace ethics and the legalities of harassment.  The fact that they are men, that this is a professional football league, that a certain amount of violence and horseplay are to be expected contributes to the very culture where the young rookie did not feel safe enough to report his treatment or believe that reporting it would help.  Many argue that hazing has and most likely will continue in sports regardless of gender.  However, at what point does hazing end and harassment begin?

The Dolphins have suspended the veteran player indefinitely, but there’s little news as to whether the rookie will return.  This has sparked discussions of liability (read: responsibility).  As those analysts and color commentators stated, bullying/harassment forces us to re-examine our roles in relation to it. When bullying/harassment is noticed, who bears the responsibility of helping?

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