Image: YouTube/FOX Sports
The current National Football League season, along with its record television ratings, is currently grabbing the headlines nationwide. However, it’s not because of the success of underdog teams with winning records, or the superhuman plays made every Sunday by some of the world’s greatest athletes. Unfortunately, all is being dominated by the middle school exploits of an overgrown bully.
Richie Incognito is a nine-year NFL veteran who currently plays for the Miami Dolphins. He is a man who has maintained a reputation among his peers as one of the dirtiest players in a sport where the mantra is to put a hurt on the opponent. As it turns out, Mr. Incognito has also been uncovered as a bully of the highest order. His victim? A 6’5”, 312 pound offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins named Jonathan Martin.
When news of this first broke, the idea that a man of such size and girth could possibly be the victim of bullying just sounded absurd. However, as each new day reveals the shocking details, not only is this seemingly possible, but more than likely probable; uncovering a disturbing underbelly in the NFL that, according to some, has been going on for years. It appears that it is also being tacitly condoned by the NFL coaches themselves. According to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Dolphins coaches asked Incognito “to toughen up” Martin, with one source suggesting that this was done in order to get Martin “into the fold.” The result was an expletive-strewn series of voicemail messages that allegedly hear Incognito call Martin “a half n*****,” say that he was “going to slap [Martin’s] real mother across the face,” and that he would “f*** [Martin’s] sister without a condom,” among other things. Jonathan Martin then took to his heels and headed for the exit, leaving the team.
Image: YouTube/The Boston Globe
This hasn’t been the first time that Richie Incognito has stepped over the line either. In 2012, Incognito was the focus of an investigation involving inappropriate misconduct with a female employee during a team-sponsored golf tournament. The end result was that no charges were pursued, leading to allegations from anonymous sources that the woman was paid off to go away quietly. When questioned by the press about the incident, Joe Philbin, the coach of the Miami Dolphins, replied, “That incident occurred a year and a half ago. We were made aware of the incident, and we took immediate action.” When asked as to how the incident was handled, Philbin refused to elaborate.
In the past, Incognito has in fact been lauded by his colleagues and coaches, even after that alleged sexual harassment incident. According to CBS News, “Last year he was voted by the league’s players into the Pro Bowl for the first time. He was the co-winner of the Dolphins’ Good Guy Award, given to the team’s most cooperative player by the local media. He also won frequent praise from Dolphins coaches for his leadership, and this year he was voted by teammates to serve as a member of the Dolphins’ player council.” However, as the text messages to Jonathan Martin demonstrate, maybe everyone was jumping on the Incognito bandwagon too soon, and choosing him to be one of the faces of the NFL was a very bad decision.
It wasn’t until the lid was blown off the texting harassment scandal did the Dolphins act. Coach Philbin has subsequently stated, “If the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere…I will make sure that it is,” and, on the heels of the media circus Richie Incognito was suspended indefinitely. Speculation even suggests that he has played his last days in a Miami Dolphins uniform, while the sports talk radio circuit has him finished as a professional football player all together. As for Jonathan Martin, he states he will be ready to return to the National Football League in the near future.
In a league where it became acceptable to terrorize a man in the name of making him a better, stronger teammate, we should be seeing major changes in regards to bullying in the NFL. There will be more investigations resulting in firings, sensitivity training and educational workshops for the players and coaches in an effort to assure that the league will remain the top-grossing sport in the country without all of the unwanted drama. Maybe Coach Philbin should have made it a safe atmosphere a year and a half ago after the golf incident by ridding his team, and the National Football League, of Incognito and his penchant for harassment. And as for Mr. Incognito himself, we hear that McDonald’s is hiring.