As the situation between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin unfolds in the public forum, it has become apparent that there will be no concrete resolution. Neither Incognito nor Martin will emerge a victor, as both men’s names and reputations have been damaged. Coming out the worst may be the Miami Dolphins and possibly, by extension, the NFL. The saga has become a playground for any pocket psychologist with an agenda.
Any criticism of Martin is completely unwarranted. He felt victimized, went to his representatives, and pulled the ripcord. There is confirmation that teammates, namely Incognito, rode him hard. Martin endured the ribbing and hazing for a year and a half, but eventually reached his breaking point.
There have been critics saying Martin should’ve stood up for himself. Some people believe he should’ve fought Incognito. The thing is, not everybody is wired for violence. Despite his size and career choice, maybe Jonathan Martin is not a fighter.
Others believe that Martin broke chain of command in bypassing Dolphins management. Various reports show that Jeff Ireland, Joe Philbin, and other coaches may have known about the bullying. Whether or not they believed Incognito’s actions to be bullying is another story. Regardless, it’s possible that Jonathan Martin felt there was no person in the Miami Dolphins organization he could trust. He went over their heads to his personal representation. He did what victims of any situation are told to do; he confided in people he trusted.
Yet there are others who feel Martin sold his “brothers” down the river. It’s conceivable that Martin never felt like one of the guys. That after a year and a half, he didn’t fit in. In a family, even the biggest outcast can fall back on sharing the same blood. Martin apparently felt little connection with the team, always outside of the circle.
Whether or not he handled the situation properly is up for debate. However, there can be no disagreement that he is a victim. Bullying is in the eye of the beholder, and while no big deal for others, it obviously affected Martin. He should not be censured merely because he is sensitive.
On the other hand, there is Richie Incognito. There is tangible evidence of him calling Martin names that would be offensive to most. Whether Incognito sent the messages maliciously, or ever thought he was being harmful, is something only he truly knows.
What’s unfortunate for Incognito is that his messages have passed bullying, run through being a jerk, and slid right into racism. Because he is one color and uses racial slurs towards a person of another, it’s nearly impossible to remove race from the story.
I’m not sure what makes a person racist. Is somebody racist by saying the N-word once – what about nigga? Or does it take 50,000 utterances of the word? Is there selective racism? I don’t know, nor am I sure that there is a clear-cut answer.
I’m inclined to believe that racism is a deep-seated mentality. Something that, whether consciously or not, affects a person’s daily life. I’m also inclined to believe that a person can have racist tendencies without being considered “racist.” Can anyone be categorized as just one thing? Humans are layered and complicated.
It’s interesting that many of the people coming to Incognito’s defense are black teammates – past and present. The Miami Herald reported that, inside the Dolphins locker room, Incognito was considered “an honorary black man.” Perhaps he became too comfortable with his position. Maybe he falsely assumed that he could talk to everyone in the same manner.
What’s more, this is a situation that plainly could’ve been avoided. This saga is hardly different from the bullying that happens in companies across the globe. An insurance broker friend of mine was told by a manager that his work performance suffered because he was, “f*cking p*ssy.” Bullies exist in every avenue of life.
Jonathan Martin will forever be thought of as thin-skinned and “soft,” for trying to remove himself from a mentally damaging situation. Richie Incognito will forever carry the stigma of a racist because of his poorly conceived phone message. Bully and victim both lose in this scenario.
This saga can be boiled down to The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For a culture that presents itself as a tight-knit brotherhood, there is a major communicative disconnect in the Dolphins’ organization. Then again, maybe rules are just left at the locker room door.