Brandon Marshall believes the culture of “machismo” in the NFL needs to change, but the incidents in Miami serve to highlight the much broader issue of how boys are raised to be men in our society.
Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall spoke with ESPN this week about the unfolding situation in Miami involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. He says this is more evidence that the culture of the NFL needs to change.
“You can’t show that you’re hurt. You can’t show any pain,” Marshall said of the NFL’s culture of machismo. “So for a guy that comes in the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem. So that’s what I mean by the culture of the NFL, and that’s what we have to change.”
“Look at it from this standpoint. Take a little boy and a little girl. The little boy falls down, and the first thing we say as parents: ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK, don’t cry.’ When the girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s gonna be OK,’” Marshall explained. “We validate their feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, don’t show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. So what’s going on in Miami, it goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking, maybe have some group sessions where guys sit down and talk about what’s going on off the field or what’s going on in the building and not mask everything because the [longer] it goes untreated, the worse it gets. Unfortunately you see this kid, Martin, he’s been harboring these feelings for the past two years and now he’s at a boiling point where he has to walk out. It’s a good thing that it didn’t escalate to something more serious. But it’s time for us to take a look at some things that we can do that are proactive and start with some group sessions or group therapy or other innovative things out there.”
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Martin was checked into a South Florida hospital recently to be treated for emotional distress. The level of Martin’s distress was severe enough in fact, that he chose to leave the Miami Dolphins before the end of the season, returning to California with his parents after his release from the hospital.
It is fantastic that Marshall (and others) are finally starting to speak out about these issues in pro sports. This isn’t just about the NFL though, this is about how we raise boys to be “men” in our society. We teach our boys from a very young age to be tough, to “man up” and to show no weakness. We teach them that bullying and harassment is just part of being male, even a right of passage, and allowing it to affect them makes them less than a man. On the flip side of this are the criticisms from a few weeks ago when Adrian Peterson chose to play with the Vikings the day after his son was murdered. He was accused of not caring about his son, of not reacting the “right way” to his terrible loss.
These seem like terribly mixed messages to be sending to the boys and men in our society. On one hand we expect them to be hard and unemotional, able to withstand the any but the deepest of emotional pain, but on the other we demand that they show their emotions and allow themselves to be vulnerable.
What about these stories resonate most with you? What do you think will help men in the future?