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November 9, 2013

NFL leaders must take lead to end bullying

There is a phrase increasingly popular in Washington: “adult supervision.”

It’s applied when older, more experience and presumably wiser lawmakers are called on to stop hot-blooded, newly elected lawmakers from engaging in reckless and likely dangerous form of conduct.

WE HAVE REACHED a pretty pass in this country when the National Football League can learn a valuable lesson from the U.S. Congress.

If adult supervision had been present in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room, it might have saved the careers of two starting offensive linemen, especially veteran guard Richie Incognito. His conduct went far beyond juvenile behavior: He’s accused of bullying second-year offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, of using physical threats, racial slurs and obscene insults. Martin walked off the team a week ago; Incognito was suspended indefinitely Sunday, meaning that he’s now someone else’s problem.

INCOGNITO HAD A a checkered career behaviorally at the University of Nebraska, where he was kicked off the team after a series of violent incidents. He transferred to Oregon in 2004 but was thrown off that team too and for the same reasons. When he turned pro, those warning signs turned out to be prophetic. As USA Today put it, “he gained a reputation as the league’s dirtiest player.”

In cases where hazing gets out of hand, the NFL retreats behind the “boys will be boys” defense and intimates that a rookie’s intolerance of nonstop abuse is some kind of character defect.

REPORTS OUT OF Miami say Dolphins assistant coaches urged Incognito to pick on Martin to toughen him up. How this hazing would improve Martin’s play on the field is questionable. It certainly seems like a juvenile approach. Meanwhile, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said he was unaware of any harassment among his players until Martin left the team. So much for supervision.

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