Martin’s deci­sion to walk away enhances the power of his mes­sage, according to Dan Lebowitz, exec­u­tive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity in Boston. The group uses sports as a way to begin con­ver­sa­tions about social jus­tice, and three years ago assisted the NFL with work­place con­duct training.

Had Martin simply started a fight, a lot of people would have dis­missed it as just a locker room iso­lated inci­dent,” Lebowitz said in a tele­phone inter­view. “This is a water­shed moment where someone who has made his living in what is con­sid­ered a sports bat­tle­field, as a glad­i­ator, is saying that emo­tional abuse matters.”

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