The New York University Sports and Society program, headed by University professor Arthur R. Miller, issued a white paper today examining the bullying and other behavior in sports, and proposing a comprehensive range of initiatives focused on youth athletics to combat those behaviors, the Dolphins announced today.
While these issues have been central to the Sports and Society program, work on this latest project began after Dolphins owner and NYU Law alumnus Stephen M. Ross approached NYU Law Dean Trevor Morrison in December 2013 to discuss ways to increase civility and respect in sports, and thus, in society at large.
Ross was obviously motivated by the so-called harassment scandal that happened in his team's locker room the last couple of years.
Working with Morrison, Miller, one of the nation’s most distinguished law professors and founder of the Sports and Society program at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS), assembled a team of NYU Law faculty, alumni, and students, as well as faculty affiliated with NYU-SCPS, to work on a range of linked projects examining the issue.
“We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another,” Ross said. “Something needs to be done so that every man and woman, young and old, can participate in sports on all levels and find a positive and meaningful experience. We will use this opportunity to make a positive change.”
The white paper, authored by Miller and other faculty who are members of the Sports and Society program at NYU-SCPS, states: “Bullying in sports is only one aspect of a larger phenomenon of harmful behavior in many spheres of society: schools, workplaces, social, and community settings. Although many government, educational, and other social institutions have done some work to curb bullying behavior in their ranks, these efforts often are not coordinated or comprehensive enough to change the existing culture."
The paper then proposes a youth education initiative to combat racism and other forms of alleged intolerance in sports, and to promote a culture of respect. Among the measures proposed are:
* The development of a curriculum to educate young athletes, coaches, and parents on respectful conduct.
* A uniform code of respectful conduct for adoption at all levels of youth athletics.
* A pledge in which sports participants on all levels commit, on a recurring basis, to treat others with respect, identify bullying, and speak out against it.
And now a break from the so-called news ... Let me just say that Americans have been playing organized sports for more than a century. And like society, the sports landscape is not perfect. It houses great men and women. It is also home to bullies, punks, thugs and druggies.
But you know what?
Sports has done a better job than society of weeding those losers out of its ranks. Sports, more specifically team sports, is a great uniter. It breaks down social barriers and has for decades.
A white paper is nice. But a white paper is a classroom project.
The lockerroom is the thing. That's real life. And I reject that what happened within the Dolphins locker room the last couple of years was the norm across sports.
Yes, there are pranks. Yes, people step over lines all across sports.
But I believe in most instances men of good faith and morals and minds eventually find a way to get the room back on course. They can do it because they are part of the room and have the respect of those in the room.
It has never happened because someone who never stepped in the room wrote a paper about it.
One more thing: Many of the things this white paper proposes? Those need to be taught at home by a mother and father. And yes, I recognize that not everyone is in a situation where mom and dad teach right and wrong, good and bad, respect and morals.
I don't have an answer for how to overcome that handicap. But I know a white paper isn't going to do it. It will never substitute for family.
Nice try, though.