Conflicted Loyalties: The Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin saga continues by Dr. Jack Singer

The latest edition of the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin saga exposes a very interesting conflict for the players, in particular.  It goes something like this (and these are my words):  “To win continually, we have learned to develop and nurture a culture of togetherness, fun and having each others’ back.” 

So when these are the core values a team establishes for success, the outsider/rookie/odd personality type can be the target for team ridicule and the team supports the person(s) doing the ridiculing.  It is similar to fraternity hazing as a right of passage.  “I had to go through it and I turned out great, so why can’t the next guy go through it?”  The conflict lies in the fact that the person being harassed or bullied may not contribute to the team’s success precisely because of the bullying and the fact that he feels like an outsider. 

Dr. Jack Singer

Dr. Jack Singer

In the case of Jonathan Martin, reading about his personality/shyness, etc., I would guess that he is suffering from the same syndrome that made Rickie Williams seem weird when he was with the Saints.  This is a Social Anxiety Disorder and it is treatable.  I think the hazing, including the racial epithets was overwhelming for Martin, given his propensity of not really fitting in, socially.  These personality traits should have been uncovered in the team’s due diligence during their draft selection preparation.

So what is the answer?  Team leadership, aligned with leadership in the front office and with the coaches must recognize these incidents early on so they can put a stop to them.  Management should have noticed that a player was having difficulty “fitting in” and explained how this could actually harm team chemistry.  They should have brought in a professional sport psychologist to uncover the issues, privately, and address the problem and its solution, before going to the media became a viable option for Jonathan Martin.


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