U.S. society in recent years has grown more aware -- and less tolerant -- of bullying. Schools, scouting organizations, churches and other groups have taken a lead in bullying prevention efforts.

This week, attention has turned to professional sports, with the suspension of Miami Dolphins' offensive lineman Richie Incognito over allegations he was harassing and bullying teammate Jonathan Martin.

Some have suggested that sports locker rooms are somehow different, that the definition of basic human decency changes when people become part of sports teams.

That is nonsense, of course. Similar arguments were once made about military units, The military has become a leader in the prevention of hazing, harassment, and bullying.

Hazing and bullying "undermines our values, tarnishes our profession and erodes the trust that bonds us," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last year.

It's time for the sports world, particularly professional sports, to follow the lead of the military and other more enlightened organizations when it comes to bullying.

National media reports indicate that Martin was initially reluctant to report what he saw as Incognito's bullying, leery of how it might tarnish his relationship with other teammates. Sadly, that fear was proven well-founded when some of Martin's Dolphin teammates spoke up for Incognito.

It will take a concerted effort at all levels to reduce bullying in sports. But examples in the military and elsewhere show that such concerted efforts can produce quick results, so long as the top leadership buys in to the need for such action.

At the team level, coaches play a key role in bullying prevention. The Beaumont (Mich.) Children's Hospital offers these tips for coaches:

• Accept your obligation to ensure a safe and respectful sports environment by not engaging in, allowing, condoning or ignoring behavior that constitutes, or could be perceived as, bullying.

• Recognize that you are a role model to your child, the players and parents. Set a good example and reinforce positive behavior when you see it.

• Establish open and honest communication between all parties involved, including parents, players, managers and volunteers.

• Be prepared to look critically at your own behavior. Accept feedback without being defensive.

• Don't view screening procedures, policy or training as a threat to your character, but as an opportunity to learn and to work toward a safer and healthier sporting environment for everyone.

We are long past the era of "boys will be boys" when it comes to bullying. (Which is not to suggest that bullying is unique to boys. It is also a major issue for girls.)

No activity can claim some unique culture that justifies turning a blind eye to bullying.

That includes sports.