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The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on the Miami Dolphins and the National Football League to investigate troubling allegations of bullying, harassment and racial slurs in the Dolphins’ locker room and to determine whether there is a wider problem of bullying endemic to the sport.

The allegations came to light Sunday after the Dolphins suspended Richie Incognito for allegedly bullying his teammate and offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. Martin left the team last week and has not returned.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

The allegation that Richie Incognito may have engaged in a pattern of behavior that involved bullying and harassment is troubling and has raised questions about a wider culture of hazing and harassment among players in the N.F.L. If bullying or harassment did in fact occur, the Dolphins need to take this matter seriously and implement appropriate actions to ensure that it does not happen again.

It is significant that the N.F.L. has an Excellence in Workplace Conduct program that makes clear that players have a right to work in an environment free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination.  Given this policy, it is important for the N.F.L. to investigate this incident and determine if it was an incident isolated to one team, or if there is a wider culture of bullying and harassment prevalent in the workplace. If so, the N.F.L. needs to make sure that those guidelines are more effectively implemented, including effective training.

The bullying allegations involving Martin and Incognito have some of the hallmarks of behavior we have seen in larger society. While much of the attention on bullying in society appropriately focuses on young people, this incident awakens us to the fact that it is not necessarily limited to the young. Bullying often occurs in workplace environments where differences of race, class and education collide.

We recognize that professional football is inherently a sport that encourages strength, stamina, and even aggressive behavior. But that does not justify or rationalize out-of-control behavior, disrespect or abuse. Because athletes are role models and are held to a higher standard in society, we believe it is essential for the N.F.L. to send a message to those players who engage in bullying that it is unacceptable behavior, and that professional athletes should focus their energies on positive values of diversity, team work and sportsmanship.

ADL in the News