Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula says newly-signed offensive lineman Richie Incognito is "prepared to move forward" after being suspended in 2013 by the Miami Dolphins for harassing teammate Jonathan Martin. But WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley talked with a University at Buffalo bullying expert who calls the move "disheartening."
"Let's be hopeful that they'll give us something to cheer for on and off the field," said Amanda Nickerson, Director of UB's Alberti Center for Bullying and Abuse Prevention. When asked for her reaction to learning the Bills signed Incognito, Nickerson responded "disheartening is a good word to describe it. I think that was my first reaction."
Incognito has been out of football since his suspension. A 144-page report, following an NFL investigation, concluded a "pattern of harassment" by Incognito against Martin. That included racial slurs.
"Incognito has enough of a track record, a pattern of behavior of bullying and harassment, that it's unlikely that that would all of a sudden that would change. So it is a little bit disheartening knowing that he is coming to our community," said Nickerson.
Nickerson says she wants to remain optimistic and she said this could be an opportunity for the Bills and NFL to let the public know they don't embrace bullying behavior. But what about children who idolize sports figures?
"Pro athletics and the Bills, that's who kids look up to," said Nickerson. "Even more than parents because those are the people they idolize and want to cheer for."
In a written statement, Pegula noted that he and the Buffalo Bills are convinced Richie is prepared to move forward and will continue to take the necessary steps to improve himself as a person and a teammate.
The following is the full statement released by the Bills from owner Terry Pegula:
"I personally met with Richie, along with Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan and Kim regarding an opportunity to earn a spot on the Buffalo Bills roster. Obviously, we all discussed Richie's past experience in the NCAA and NFL. We are convinced that Richie is prepared to move forward and has and will continue to take the necessary steps to improve himself as a person and a teammate. Following discussion with the rest of the coaching staff, we as an organization will provide him with the opportunity to do so."
This is the second time Incognito will play for the Bills. He was with the team a short time back in 2009, but started just three games.