GLSEN Decries NFL Culture of 'Be a Man'
Responses to Dolphins bullying scandal and new comments from former QB Kordell Stewart underscore potential harm to youth
Director of Communications
NEW YORK, Nov. 7, 2013 – GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is calling on the NFL, its teams, its players and its analysts to denounce the harmful notions of what it means to “be a man” that are being expressed in reaction to the alleged Miami Dolphins bullying case, including reports that the Dolphins’ general manager told player Jonathan Martin’s agent that Martin should have resorted to violence to respond to the alleged harassment and bullying.
In an interview unrelated to the Martin case earlier this week, former NFL player Kordell Stewart even went as far as to say he cannot be gay because he is “100% man.”
“Our children are watching and learning dangerous lessons from their heroes about what it means to be a ‘man,’” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Being a man does not mean bullying someone. It does not mean responding to bullying with violence. And it certainly does not mean using racist and homophobic slurs to belittle someone and ‘toughen them up.’
“We often overlook the damaging gender stereotypes expressed in bullying, and the ways that sexism and homophobia work together to isolate and victimize young people. Pressures to ‘be a man’ or ‘act like a lady’ can do lasting physical and emotional harm, whether someone is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or not. Unfortunately, cultural institutions like the NFL sometimes reinforce, intentionally and unintentionally, these destructive norms, which we see played out every day at schools across the country. GLSEN is calling on the NFL and society as a whole to respond to this horrifying bullying incident and Stewart’s remarks with real thought and care about the messages we send our youth about bullying, gender and, frankly, just being decent human beings to each other – and to take action to ensure that we are creating a culture of respect for our youth.”
While many NFL players, coaches and officials deserve credit for speaking out against Richie Incognito’s behavior, below is a sample of the harmful statements prominent NFL-related figures have said about the incident:
“Playing football is a man’s job, and if there’s any weak link, it gets weeded out.”
"At this level, you're a man. You're not a little boy. You're not a freshman in college. You're a man. ... So, Richie Incognito, is he wrong? Absolutely. But I think the other guy is just as much to blame. Hopefully he's able to bounce back and recover from all that has happened and take awareness of, you know, man, you're a grown-ass man. You need to stand up for yourself.”
“Instead of being a man and confronting him, he acted like a coward and told like a kid."
"I think if you have a problem with somebody -- a legitimate problem with somebody -- you should say, 'I have a problem with this,' and stand up and be a man.”
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.