Regardless of what happened to Miami Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin,… (US Presswire )
Regardless of what sport you play, where you play it or how good you are at it, every locker room at deals with hazing.
It's not always the type of "bullying" and other cruel deeds that Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin is alleging, but it does exist.
I played football at both the high school and semi-pro levels. I've seen and experienced hazing firsthand. Now granted I didn't go through what Martin is said to have gone through (racism, humiliation, verbal and physical threats), but I have been the victim of pranks, jokes and crude humor.
I've also been subjected to things like carrying teammates' shoulder pads, fetching water and other types of teenage behavior. Then you have trash talking and insults (usually meant to be humorous). Unfortunately, these things can get out of hand.
When it happens consistently, the line between acceptable and unacceptable gets blurred. As do the lines between funny and offensive, humorous and harmful, adventurous and dangerous. When that happens, it can lead to bullying, retaliation, violence and even death.
Even worse, social media have taken hazing to a new and extremely dangerous level. Cyber-hazing can make a victim feel 10 times worse than they did after going through the initial act.
There are two reasons why hazing can go to such extremes. The main reason is it has been culturally accepted to some degree as a part of life, a rite of passage and/or a "requirement" to be a part of a team.
The other reason is a lack of oversight from coaches, athletic directors, general managers, etc. Better monitoring would be a big first step in at least slowing down, if not stopping altogether, this growing problem.
The biggest deterrent, however, would be for players to better police themselves. At the end of the day, they are the ones who spend the most time in the locker room. Many athletes refer to it as their "sanctuary," "refuge" or "home away from home."
If athletes can do a better job monitoring their own behavior, it will send a strong message to teammates that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
After all, sports is about leading by example.
Gabe Salgado is a RedEye special contributor.
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