Our view: When good people remain silent ...

November 5, 2013 9:48:17 AM



Jonathan Martin is 6-foot-5 inches tall and weighs 315 pounds. He is not only huge, but athletic. That combination of size and agility led him to a career as a professional athlete: He is an offensive tackle for the NFL's Miami Dolphins. At 24 years of age, he is in the prime of his physical development.  


When you consider that the average American male is 5-foot-9 and weighs 180 pounds, clearly men like Martin stand apart. 


But Martin, an otherwise anonymous laborer in a industry of giants, is unique for another reason, one that has brought him national notoriety. 


Martin is apparently the victim of bullying. 


On Oct. 28, the second-year player walked out of the Dolphins' facility and has not returned. It was reported that his departure came during lunch, when he sat down among a group of teammates, all of whom picked up their trays and moved to another table. It proved to be the final straw, apparently. Since then, the NFL and the Dolphins, facing public scrutiny over the issue, have been looking into the matter. One player, Richie Incognito, was suspended from the team when texts and voices mails from Incognito to Martin that featured explicit language, including racial slurs, came to light.  


That the player's name is Incognito is far more appropriate than anyone might have guessed. The word "incognito" is an adverb/adjective used to describe a person who is concealing his true identity. 


It certainly seems an appropriate name for Richie Incognito, who received the Dolphins' "Good Guy" award for his cordial dealings with media. Now, it appears his true identity has come to light. 


Martin's case brings a new element to the discussion of bullying while also reinforcing much of what we already know about the practice. 


What happens when there is a Goliath, but no David? 


The NFL and the Dolphins, at least to this point, have conveniently claimed ignorance.  


But it defies credulity to suggest that no one with the Dolphins was aware of what was happening. It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to remain silent. 


That appears to be the case in the Martin situation.  


It is true, most likely, in every bullying situation. Someone knows. Often, many people know. But when that knowledge is cloaked in silence, tragic events can occur, as we have often seen. 


In this respect, there is nothing unique about what has happened to Jonathan Martin. 


But what may add a new dimension to the discussion is the environment in which bullying can occur. Victims of bullies are typically assumed to be weak, powerless people who exist on the fringes of society. Martin's case defies that assumption. 


If a person like Martin, a massive physical specimen who makes a living inflicting violence on his foe each Sunday, can be the victim of bullying, we must realize that we are all vulnerable. Like Martin, all of us have someone in our lives whose status, influence or authority exceeds our own. 


And since all of us are potential victims, we have a vested interest in speaking out when we see others who are victims of bullying. We might be next, after all. 


Interestingly enough, tonight the Columbus City Council has an opportunity to confront a bullying situation of its own. Columbus school board member Aubra Turner has said that she, too, is a victim of bullying, thanks to her position on some issues that run contrary to the views of some in the black community.  


City Judge Nicole Clinkscales, who like Turner is black, has accused Turner of "tom" foolery -- a thinly-veiled euphemism for being an "Uncle Tom" -- after Turner has said she has been threatened because of her views. 


It will indeed be interesting to see how the council responds to this incident, if it responds at all. 


Will the council be silent? Bullies always count on it. 


The better question: Will the good people of Columbus tolerate that silence?  


Consider the implications.  


The council meets tonight at 5 at the municipal complex.