NFL hazing no longer “Incognito”

On Monday, Oct. 28, offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins, citing “emotional” reasons. Within the two weeks since Martin’s departure, a great deal of evidence has surfaced indicating shocking instances of bullying that occurred with the Dolphins organization. The most directly damning bit of evidence was a voicemail that pro-bowl guard Richie Incognito left on Martin’s cellphone. The following is a transcription of that message, according to Fox News 1:

“Hey, what’s up, you half-n____ piece of s___… Want to s___ in your f______ mouth. I’m going to slap your f______ mouth. Going to slap your real mother across the face. (Laughter) You’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

When the above message was revealed to the public on Sunday, Nov. 3, Incognito instantly became the face of bullying and racism in America. Incognito’s history of offenses was then brought forth, and the list of misdeeds in his checkered past is almost too long to believe.

Following a college career during which Incognito acquired as many ejections, suspensions and fines as he did personal accolades and awards, the talented lineman was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Incognito spent the first five years of his professional career with the St. Louis Rams, where he struggled with injury and addiction issues. In 2009, he was cut by the Rams and fined $50,000 for multiple unnecessary roughness penalties. That same year, NFL players voted Incognito the “dirtiest player” in the league.

However, the following year, the Dolphins signed Incognito and he made his first pro-bowl appearance in 2012. After being named a member of the Dolphins Leadership Council that same year, it seemed as though Incognito had finally found a home.

That all ended on Nov. 3.

In addition to the message left on Martin’s phone, it is now known that Incognito was accused of physical and sexual assault multiple times. One such allegation came in 2012, only several weeks prior to Incognito being named to the Leadership Council. There are also new accusations of extortion relating to a $15,000 payment from Martin to Incognito.

The vast majority of active Dolphins players are putting their full support behind Incognito and, often times, harshly criticizing Martin. “What’s perceived is that Richie is this psychopath racist, and the reality is Richie was a pretty good teammate,” said tackle Tyson Claybo. “I don’t know why [Martin is] doing this. And the only person who knows why is Jonathan Martin.” Quarterback Ryan Tannehill even called Incognito “the best possible teammate I could have asked for.”

While Martin has yet to speak publicly on the matter, an interview with Incognito aired on Sunday, Nov. 10. In the interview with FOX’s Jay Glazer, Incognito called Martin his “best friend on the team” and stated, “My actions were coming from a place of love. No matter how bad and how vulgar it sounds, that’s how we communicate, that’s how our friendship was.” It is now clear that Glazer and Incognito are close personal friends, and the interview has been widely criticized for intentionally softening Incognito’s public image.

Several key issues must be the focus of all topics surrounding this saga. Rookies are known to spend thousands of dollars on team trips and dinners on occasion, but Martin wasn’t a rookie. Why did the coaching staff and players allow him to be treated as such? An unnamed Dolphins coach reportedly instructed Incognito to “toughen up” Martin during his employment in the organization. But why did that have to extend off the field? Many Dolphins players have called this merely a series of “hazing” incidents, which are commonplace in the NFL. But the NFL is a business, not a college fraternity. So why is hazing considered acceptable?

Much more information is sure to be revealed in the near and distant future. No matter what is discovered, the NFL now has an opportunity to show that it has at least some control of teams and players within the league. In the NFL’s current state, there seems to be nothing further from the truth.