Posted by lindsaybebout on November 11th, 2013
Bullying is definitely the buzz word of the year in America. The anti-bullying movement is one that has gained momentum these past couple of years. When people hear the word bullying they always associate it with school and adolescents. If the Richie Incognito controversy has proven anything, its that this is definitely not the case.
On October 30th, it was reported that Jonathan Martin, right tackle for the Miami Dolphins, had left the team facilities two days prior due to “emotional” reasons. On November 2, it was reported that Richie Incognito’s harassment of Martin, which dates back all the way to the 2012 season, was being reviewed by the NFL Player’s Association. Initially, it was reported that he had been mistreated by some of his teammates during lunch that day when they asked him to sit with them, but then got up and left the table as soon as he sat down. On October 31st, Martin was listed on the injury report with an unspecified injury and missed the Miami Dolphins game that day. It was later reported that during this time Martin had checked into a hospital for emotional distress before flying to his parent’s California home. It was here that he started “preparing a detailed document for his cooperation with a league investigation into a string of alleged multiple incidents he says led to his emotional distress and exit from the team”.
On November 2nd, it was reported that Richie Incognito had been in the ring-leading role in the harassment of Martin going as far back as the 2012 season and that it was being reviewed by the NFL Players Association. On November 3rd, Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins for “conduct detrimental to the team.” The next day, it was reported that he had sent numerous texts and voicemails making threats against Martin and Martin’s family. According to Incognito, he had reached out to Martin after Martin had left the team, and that the two had an amicable text exchange, in which Incognito claims Martin said he did not blame him or his teammates personally; he expressed being upset with the report, even going on Twitter to demand that ESPN’s Adam Scheftner “Stop slandering my name.”
Schefter subsequently reported statements from an unnamed source saying that the team and the league were now in possession of highly disturbing texts and voicemails in which Incognito used a racial slur against Martin, and a disturbing text with “a reference to tracking down members of Martin’s family and harming them” and even threatening to kill Martin. It was reported that, Incognito’s alleged harassment of Martin had gotten to the point wheret Martin actually feared for his safety, and felt that leaving the team was his only option. According to Schefter, the final straw for the Miami Dolphins was a highly graphic voicemail Incognito left Martin in April 2013, in which he called Martin a “half-n***** piece of s***,” then threatened to slap his mother across the face, and then gave death threat against Martin. Until then, the Dolphins had publicly maintained the charges against Incognito were pure speculation.
ESPN reported that sources had told them of a specific allegation in which Incognito had gotten Martin to contribute $15,000 to help finance a trip to Las Vegas by some teammates last summer, even though Martin did not like traveling with the group. The sources claim that Martin simply gave Incognito the $15,000 because he feared the consequences if he did not hand over the money.
This is not the first time Incognito has been the center of controversy. In 2009, he got into a verbal altercation with then-St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo for multiple penalties he had caused in a game. He was waived a couple days later. In college, Incognito was also suspended for the 2004 season at Nebraska because of off-the-field incidents. Incognito was also voted the second-dirtiest player in the NFL from a poll in the Sporting News during the 2012 season. Houston Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith swung a helmet at him during an August preseason game, alleging foul play.
Besides those involved, most people still have no idea what the truth is of the situation. Many feel Martin should have been tougher and not succumbed into the harassment; others feel Incognito is a terrible human being. Everyone’s opinion seems to be a black and white thing, but I believe its more of different shades of grey.
I definitely believe Incognito crossed a line that is not okay. No matter what people think about NFL players, we are all people who have feelings and can be affected by others. I don’t believe Incognito was purposely trying to make Martin afraid for his life and trying to get him to quit football. I feel he didn’t realize how far he was taking his actions and the effects they could have.
The NFL needs to use this situation to teach a lesson, not only to the NFL players, but to athletes around the country. Bullying and hazing is something that needs to disappear. The NFL needs to make it a rule that the league has a zero tolerance view on. The benefits of bullying and hazing are nothing and it has shown to just cause problems. Although most of what is done by players is harmless, there has been way too many cases of it getting out of control. Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly was quoted this past week as saying, “All our guys, they’re all members of the same team and I think everybody should be treated the same way … Everybody’s a professional. Everybody’s on the same team … We’re all on the same side.”
The commissioner is strict on illegal hits, dog fighting, and DUIs, so why should it stop with bullying and hazing. Roger Goodell needs to start the process of putting an end to the nonsense and teach the younger generations that demeaning and isolating people brings nothing good to the table and that everybody is an equal part of the team.