The Miami Dolphins have gone through inner turmoil the past few weeks, having to deal with a horrible situation involving offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, the latter leaving the team after experiencing bullying from the former. After bearing the brunt of a harsh prank from teammates including Incognito, Martin reportedly walked out on the team and checked himself into a South Florida hospital, suffering from emotional distress.
While Incognito has become the face of bullying in America, he has received endless support from Dolphins teammates and members of the National Football League (NFL). Martin has faced backlash for his decision to walk out on the team; articles have called him soft and questioned his ability to survive in the NFL, as well as his
handling of the situation.
The incidents have polarized those in the sports world who are not sure where to place the blame. It is a shameful thing that this occurred, but the responsibility cannot be centered on Incognito alone. The blame has to be spread around the Miami Dolphins organization, especially for letting this get out to the press. What fans need to realize is that the aggressive locker-room culture happens throughout the NFL. Rookie hazing is widespread, and the veterans do have remarkable clout in most locker rooms. Unfortunately, Miami did cross the line in some cases. The symbol of Incognito’s terror against Martin is a voicemail in which Incognito calls Martin a “half-n—– piece of s—,” and threatens him that he will “s— in [his] f—— mouth.”
Incognito is not a racist, just a product of the locker-room culture of the NFL, where players can use racial epithets and threaten each other. Martin is a biracial, Stanford-educated son of two lawyers, and his intelligence was evidently perceived as softness. The vibe amongst teammates points to a strong bond between Martin and Incognito, but if they were really close, would Incognito realize that Martin was not responding well to the harassment? Would Martin have been able to tell
Incognito to cut the crap?
The coaching staff reportedly told Incognito to toughen up Martin for the 2013 season, but failed to track how Martin would respond to the increased attention. Regardless of the relationship the two lineman shared, Martin failed to be open with his coaches about his unhappiness with the situation, but made the right decision in walking out on the team. Some people are just non-confrontational, and it would have been a tragedy had Martin acted out after internalizing his emotions for so long. After witnessing the suicides of Jovan Belcher, Junior Seau and Paul Oliver this past year, Martin should be applauded for not doing anything drastic.
However, this is a situation that should have been handled internally. The wicked, backwards locker-room culture of the NFL has been a decently kept secret for quite some time, and while a certain lack of understanding is in place, this situation exposes it all full volume. We will soon see how Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin resume their relationship, but Miami and the NFL should reconsider policing in the locker room and player-coach relations for fear of another situation like this.
Contact Andrew Vojt at [email protected]