© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Michael Dunn And Miami Dolphins Show It's Time To Step Up


This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Later this hour, it's the latest in the series of global figures we've been meeting for Black History Month. It's the Belgian singing sensation known as Stromae. That's coming up. But first, a few thoughts from me. I couldn't help but notice this past weekend was a weekend of reckonings. On Friday, Ted Wells, the attorney hired by the NFL to investigate allegations of bullying by members of the Miami Dolphins, issued his report declaring three members of the team did engage in unacceptable harassment. Not just of Jonathan Martin, but of a another player and trainer.

The next day, a jury rendered its verdict in the trial of a man named Michael Dunn. We just talked about the story a few minutes ago, but in case you missed it, Dunn was the Florida man who fired numerous shots at a group of black teens when he pulled in beside them at a gas station. He killed one of them, Jordan Davis. The altercation evidently started when Dunn decided the music in their car was too loud and the teens rejected his command to turn it down. The jury found Dunn guilty of second-degree attempted murder for shooting at the car, but they deadlocked on the charge of murdering Jordan Davis. Why am I putting the two stories together? Partly because race is a factor in both of these cases, although, I might suggest perhaps not the only one. In the Dolphins' locker room, for example, the targets of the harassment were Jonathan Martin - a biracial man - and an Asian-American assistant trainer, as well as another player identified as Andrew McDonald, who was the target of homophobic name-calling. The apparent ringleader of the bad behavior, Richie Incognito, is white, but two other black players were also part of the circle of stupidity, according to the investigator Ted Wells' report.

In the case of the Florida shooting, this was not the all-white jury of old turning a blind eye to the acts of one of their own. This was a very racially diverse panel, who reached what seems to have been a compromised verdict after hours of apparently intense deliberations. Can I just tell you, I'm also putting the two together because it strikes me that this is now a moment for the allies to step forward. In the case of Jonathan Martin, I would argue they have been and they are. I say that because the other big NFL news recently has been University of Missouri football player, Michael Sam, coming out as a gay man in advance of the NFL draft.

While many players have been saying Michael Sam will be welcomed in the league, I think that what makes that more likely now is that Jonathan Martin stepped out to talk about what happened to him as a non-gay man, and by doing so made clear, in a way that the player code of conduct apparently did not, that there are boundaries that should not be crossed. As well, non-gay former players like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, who have come out in support of Michael Sam and same-sex rights in general, are making a statement that the concerns of one group do not rest or should not rest solely that groups' shoulders.

Similarly, in the case of Jordan Davis and countless others, the cries of mothers and fathers of black sons have been uttered, but they apparently have not been heard, at least not by their countrymen and women. So perhaps now is the moment for others to step up, perhaps the coaches and math teachers, perhaps the neighbors and babysitters, maybe the mothers and fathers of kids who aren't black boys, to step up and declare that being a black male teen, even a mouthy, hoodie-wearing, loud-radio-playing one, is not a crime for which you should be prepared to pay with your life. Perhaps now is the time for others to say enough. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.