All we want to do (and it is all about us, isn’t it?) is watch a football game. We don’t want to be distracted knowing that our favorite “bad guys” may be damaged goods or that this aggression comes from somewhere other than winning the game.
But with the past week’s news on the alleged harassment within the Miami NFL team, we are forced to go into the locker room and recognize the culture that allows, encourages, systematizes—pick a word—this negative behavior.
I had lunch yesterday with a good friend and professional colleague and this story came up. Since we work on gender-issues in international development, it was rather obvious to us that the only way to change negative behavior towards gender is a massive change in the environment that tolerates such behavior. The best way to make this change is through policy and the strict enforcement of that policy.
Are you listening, NFL?
Think about this: If we spend the majority of our time at work in comparison to the time we spend at home or play—whatever “play” is—it is logical that our behaviors at work would dominate or influence our life.
I remember seeing an article once that asked people, Would you want your children to see how you behave or act at work? Many said no.
So I find the NFL now struggling with a situation of alleged harassment or bullying. In interviews with other professional football players about this incident, their response are: “ This is how things are in the locker room. What happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.” These responses sound eerily like those we hear in so many countries where rape and abuse are considered allowable offenses that are culturally condoned.
Just because it is what has been done doesn’t mean it is right or should be tolerated. Whether it is the NFL’s, or any professional sport’s, aggressive and hazing practices or rape as a political tool for control.
Behaviors—negative or positive—are not easily turned on and off. And a quick survey of behavioral literature will tell you that the negative behaviors in the locker room or work place spill over into domestic and civilian life.
I’d like to think the NFL case is the opportunity to make necessary changes and in so doing influence other work environments, proving that good behaviors also win games.