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Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Palm Beach Post (Florida)
By Andrew Abramson Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has tried to clean up a bullying scandal within his team, now is calling for widespread changes on a much-broader scale -- throughout sports culture.

Ross, a Manhattan-based real-estate magnate, has teamed up with New York University on a series of initiatives that would attempt to stem racism, intolerance and homophobia in locker rooms at all levels, beginning with youth sports.

Ross helped orchestrate bills that were introduced in the state senate and house Tuesday.

State House Bill 1117, titled "Athletic Safety, Education and Training" would require the Florida High School Athletic Association to adopt bylaws "regarding respectful conduct" while requiring training and reporting and having athletes sign a pledge.

Certain organizations using public facilities would have to comply with "policies regarding respect and conduct," including for some non-FHSAA athletic events.

The bill also would prohibit harassment in intercollegiate athletics and provide for enforcement by the state's attorney general.

"I'm looking at this incident that occurred with the Dolphins to open up doors to really create change in our country and in the locker rooms," Ross told reporters. "The way people really treat each other, the respect they have, the civility human beings should have for each other."

Ross hadn't spoken publicly since the NFL's independent report, written by attorney Ted Wells, was released Feb. 14. Wells determined that Dolphins players Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry harassed teammates and an assistant trainer.

The report detailed racial and homophobic slurs in the locker room.

Some people in the organization, both privately and publicly, have criticized the report, saying the Dolphins' locker room wasn't any different than others in the league.

Ross dismissed questions about the Wells report Tuesday, saying he was focused on the legislation and a 22-page "white paper" that was released by NYU's Sports and Society Program.

"This is something that is on a much bigger level and the (Wells) report didn't really cause this to happen," Ross said. "It really gave it a reason to happen because it was brought to the level of attention to the public."

The white paper is called "Changing the culture of youth sports: An initiative to combat abusive behavior and all forms of intolerance in order to promote civility and respect among athletes."

It seeks to develop a curriculum to "educate young athletes, coaches and parents on respectful conduct." It also calls for a "uniform code of respectful conduct" at all levels of youth sports along with a pledge for athletes at all levels to "commit, on a recurring basis, to treat others with respect, identify bullying and speak out against it."

After the scandal broke, Ross said he spoke to players about how their NFL careers are going to be short and they need to learn how to act in the workplace.

"The type of language and the way you're treating people is not acceptable in the workplace," Ross said he told players. "They should learn and understand and be in a position that when they are finished playing ball, they can fit in and not revert back to this."

Trevor Morrison, dean of the NYU law school, defended his university's work when asked how he would expect NFL players to actually abide by theoretical code of conducts and pledges.

"Whether or not this legislation would have prevented any particular episode from happening is not really the question," Morrison said. "I don't think anyone is suggesting legislation would be a complete fix to the problem. It's one component to addressing a broader issue or set of issues along which education I think primarily is the key."


February 26, 2014




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