If you were asked to picture a bullying victim in your mind, what would that picture look like? Would the victim be a child or an adult? Would the victim be a male or a female? Would the victim be tall or short? Would your imagined victim be overweight, skinny or somewhere in between? Whatever the picture in your mind, you are probably right. Bullying victims can look like anybody. They can be anybody. Bullying does is not restricted by race, gender, size, religion, ethnicity or any other characteristic. The controversy of two years ago involving the Miami Dolphins and offensive lineman Richie Incognito demonstrated very clearly that bullies are everywhere, so bullying victims are everywhere. His target was a fellow NFL lineman and abuse he and teammates heaped upon the man drove him off the team.
Richie Incognito recently signed with the Buffalo Bills. The signing will likely ignite controversy and bring the topic of bullying back to the forefront. Does Mr. Incognito deserve a second chance? Has he done whatever is necessary to earn that second chance? Does bullying just go away if you wait a few months? The answer to that last question is easy. No.
Far too many school systems respond to reports of bullying with token investigations and a wait-and-see attitude. They act as though a few weeks or months without a reported incident means the problem has been solved. That could not be further from the truth. Bullying must be addressed head on and bullies must be held accountable. If they are not, they will certainly resume their behavior or find new methods to torment their victims.
It’s possible Richie Incognito has learned a lesson, made amends and earned another shot at playing in the NFL. But it would take more than a few carefully prepared statements and the passage of a little time to prove that. Hopefully the Bills and the NFL are aware of that.
Source: Time Warner Cable News, “Anti-Bullying Advocates Support Buffalo Bills Giving Richie Incognito Second Chance,” by Sarah Blazonis, 8 February 2015