HILLARY SMITH: Make college football a workplace to stop the harassment

2013-11-17T19:30:00Z HILLARY SMITH: Make college football a workplace to stop the harassmentHillary Smith Time Columnist nwitimes.com
November 17, 2013 7:30 pm  • 

Miami Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin spent the bulk of Friday in New York, speaking to an NFL special counsel assigned to investigate Martin's claims of racism, bullying and overall harassment at the hands of his teammates and specifically Richie Incognito.

The NFL is taking these allegations very seriously and as such, Incognito has filed a grievance with the player's association after he was suspended during the investigation.

Why is all of this happening?

The NFL is a business and is trying as much to protect its brand as it is trying to protect its workers. Incognito's grievance comes because he's trying to protect his income, as any good businessman would do.

Being a business, and as anyone in the American business world has already undergone, any human resources department would have already shown videos and pamphlets about proper workplace behavior to its employees.

At this point, the Dolphins players are saying there's no bullying going on in the locker room; it's a "brotherhood" and that it's no different than any other locker room across the league.

There's the rub. This "brotherhood" becomes acceptable as players rise through the ranks of football. 

Is it possible that the bullying and racial slurs start in Pop Warner, or are tolerated at the high school level? More likely, the trait becomes accepted slowly, as players excel or are held back from league to league, high school to college to the pros.

If football becomes a business, it should start as a business.

As colleges allow the behavior to exist, universities should consider separating their funds from the college programs. Allow the football team to become an individual business, support itself, pay the players to attend school (which would take care of the debate of colleges paying athletes) and treat the athletes like employees.

Under this recommendation, the programs would take a stipend from the university as start-up, and for housing the players and providing the facilities, colleges would be take a portion of the revenue. 

If it was treated as a business, the athletes treated as businessmen, then the education of how to act like an adult in the workplace -- rather than a culture of name-calling, bullying, accepting the unacceptable "brotherhood" behavior -- would begin sooner rather than later.

Under this plan, the instances of similar bullying by college coaches would diminish, because they would be employees of a business. In addition, the exorbitant contracts that coaches are paid would no longer come from a general fund. 

At the same time, schools like Valparaiso, which don't have scholarships for football players, would be on the same footing as schools like Purdue and Indiana, who would be paying players through the money that they make from ticket sales.

Like the NFL, there would be salary caps (though much, much lower) all directed toward tuition. There would be less "bullying" by coaches to try to convince players to leave, because in a business, hirings and firings happen all the time.

To end the harassment, make college football a business, and treat the pros like the employees that they are.

This column solely represents this writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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