Encompassing a brilliant combination of talent, dedication, will power, and inspiration, Richard Incognito and Jonathan Martin both traveled long, arduous roads before earning coveted roster spots with the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, while these rare characteristics keep fans in awe, consequences inherent with the stresses and sacrifices they endure at such a high level can – at times – come to the surface in ugly ways. Thus, when Incognito was suspended for bullying Martin, reaction was more of a disapproving head shake than huge surprise.

Whether you believe Incognito’s behavior is unquestionably despicable, that there’s a locker-room code of ethics where vulgarity and razzing are accepted forms of communication and camaraderie, or fall somewhere in between, let’s agree Incognito isn’t a guy most people would enjoy sharing a beer with. He is a jerk. The real question isn’t whether a grown man was or can be bullied, but whether we’re okay with the fact that there are numerous Richards within professional sports whom we derive our entertainment from on a regular basis.

If we weren’t okay, ratings would be down – they’re not. Like so many others, my love of the game outweighs the current number of controversies. Our society has achieved a numbness that leaves us no longer surprised when presented with overt acts of indecency. Now, no longer able to ignore these tendencies, recent years are shinning a national spotlight on bullying as reported suicides and other unfortunate instances continue to occur among young students. The time is ripe to work toward changing the culture before we reach a breaking point too egregious to repair.

Be In The Know About Bullying was started by former college and professional athlete, Sean James, “to change the culture of bullying.” James recognizes “the epidemic of bullying” and the “certain stereotypes” that come with it. Martin, whose strength and dedication landed him in the most physical sport there is, certainly doesn’t fit the bill of a meek child who has his lunch money stolen on the playground. The culture of bullying is far larger and more complicated. By “turning those stereotypes on their head” we can begin unraveling a blueprint for change. As James sees it, “bullying is an anti-social behavior that is learned through influences in the environment. As a learned behavior, it can also be unlearned or, better yet, prevented.”

With the support and participation of a growing number of NFL, UFC, and Olympic “ambassadors” – including Michael Oher, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Shawne Merriman – Be In The Know is working to provide education, leadership, and mentorship to students throughout the country “who will stand together against bullying.” Using these tools, the organization has created “an anti-bullying program centered on the philosophy that students can make a meaningful impact on preventing bullying in their schools.”

Be In The Know About Bullying includes a 10 month curriculum for participating schools. Teachers “incite student interest and motivation through the carrying out of lessons, and the taking of the Be In The Know Pledge.” Student leaders take these lessons out of the classroom by integrating with their student governments “in order to foster a school environment that is safe and nurturing for all students.” And, having professional athletes stop by these schools to “serve as roles models” only adds to the excitement and encouragement of the students involved.

Working to unlearn bullying behavior at a young age – and preventing it from ever being learned at all – is the best way for our culture to make a lasting change. There are not just implications for the NFL and professional sports, but for all aspects of civil society. Talent, drive, and everything else we admire in our leaders can be cultivated without invoking poor behavior – educating ourselves on how is imperative. Bullying is not only unnecessary to succeed, it’s a deterrent to achieving our greatest potential. With the athletes of Be In The Know About Bullying now joining in on the cause – not living incognito – there’s hope that real change could be right around the corner.

More about Be In The Know About Bullying
Be In The Know’s mission is to provide support services to youth and families affected by bullying, violence, and suicide through preventative education and communication.  They embrace all segments of the community of all race and ethnic backgrounds, social levels, sexual orientations, and gender identities.  Be In The Know not only provides direct services to families and communities affected by bullying, teen suicide and school violence, they also provide programming to educational institutions through their staff, speakers and curriculum.  Their programming is tailored to the needs of students, educators and their particular communities.

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