Thursday, April 3, 2014

It’s too soon to give Richie Incognito a second shot

by Germar Derron

Locker room antics interrupted a promising season for the Miami Dolphins. According to special investigator Ted Wells, Richie Incognito tormented Jonathan Martin so much that he contemplated suicide, and walked away from his team. Before the dirty laundry got tossed completely out of the locker room, Martin checked himself into a mental institution, and the Dolphins suspended Incognito.

Wells concluded that Incognito was the aggressor and Martin was the victim.  According to an ESPN report, Incognito is ready to go back to work, for the Miami Dolphins.  All over the net, and in local bars, fans still support Incognito.  They call Jonathan Martin soft, a traitor, or an attention-seeker.  Some give Martin a pass and blame a press-hungry, pot-stirring team that includes his “sue-happy” mom.  But most don’t buy the Incognito is a big bully subplot.

Bullies, and their brethren, tend to see themselves as “boys being boys.”  But they aren't around for the tears, the rage-fueled workouts, or the outbursts – until they are.  From Incognito’s perspective, this was a back-and-forth, an exchange of barbs.  But only one of the two men asked for money, taunted other players, or intimidated trainers. 

In the now infamous texts, the levels of aggression, violence, and filth are not equivalent.  Often, when Incognito sent an expletive-laced line, Martin didn't respond for hours.  He rarely even referenced the attacks.  When Martin responded in kind, those responses were weak, halfhearted, and corny.  They seemed out-of-place, or contrived.  

Half-n*****.  That’s what Incognito called his good (half) black buddy. Don’t excuse that.  Incognito also took time to compose, “Ur black and I hate u.”  What warranted that? Before that text, Martin sent this to Incognito: “Nice. Those [breasts] looked awesome.”  Martin responded to the “hate” text two hours after receiving it: “I been sleeping since 2 . . . .”  This reads exactly like schoolyard bullying looks.  One guy throws another in a dumpster. The dumpee gets out, smiles and says “you got me that time Richie.”  All the while, internally, they pray that each time is the last time.  Then, outsiders say, “They’re such good friends!”  

Incognito’s teammates and reformed persona stand tall in his corner.  But even they cannot hide his checkered past.  Before we learned of sexual assaults, damaged vehicles, and barroom brawls, he was the guy that left every team under some “circumstance” – every team.  

In 2009, NFL players agreed that Incognito was the dirtiest player in the league.  Three seasons later, Dolphins’ players selected Incognito as a team leader.  He became a face of the franchise.  He changed, or he acted like he changed.  But whenever people are accused of heinous actions, neighbors, leaders, and family members chant “but he was so friendly” or “they seemed so happy together.”

Incognito once told his “best buddy,” [I’ll kill you, you’re black, I’m white, and I’ll get away with it].  He referenced the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.  The Miami Dolphins play in Florida.  No, Incognito never meant to kill Martin. But he made these comments just prior to the trial – a sensitive subject, in a sensitive area, at a sensitive time.

Incognito lives a life of violence, abuse, dirty play, and suspensions.  Jonathan Martin played football.  Which player most deserves a second chance right now?

Photos courtesy of Getty Images - Richie Incognito by Streeter Lecka; Jonathan Martin by Stephen Dunn


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