As you’ve probably already heard, Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito is the meanest, least respectable person to ever play the game of football. Since the tapes of him calling his teammate and fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin the N-word came out earlier this week, the media have spent hours talking about whether Incognito will play in the NFL ever again.
This is awful behavior and just downright inexcusable, nobody is going to question that. But what people do need to question is the fact that Martin broke the biggest rule in a team locker room: Whatever issues exist between teammates, remains within the team.
Perhaps this is an antiquated “unwritten rule” of sports. Maybe we as a society need to completely outlaw hazing. It’s possible that I’m completely ignoring the human element of this story in an attempt to validate some rule that protects a bunch of grown men playing a children’s game for millions of dollars.
There were death threats. There were racial slurs. There were threats against Martin’s family. These are all awful things that should never be said to another human being, but did Martin actually think that Incognito was going to follow through on any of these threats? Unless he did, this is an issue that needs to remain with the team. Go to the captains. Tell the coaches. Go straight to the source and punch Incognito directly in the face. These options might seem childish, but calling something childish when it’s an issue between grown men throwing a ball around for a living seems a bit redundant.
If I’m a member of a team and I’m given the option of signing Incognito or Martin, I’m voting for Incognito 100 times out of 100. It’s an issue of trust. Incognito might be a blowhard bully who would be insufferable to be around, but at least I know he’s not going to air my dirty laundry to the press.
Anyone who has played a team sport will attest to the fact that a team is like a family. There are going to be people who may not be the best person to hang around, but in the best interest of the program it is important to remain tight knit. Any kind of breach of that trust is almost impossible to repair.
This story has brought hazing and bullying into the national spotlight as well. Hazing is a ridiculous, timeless tradition that has been going on in many kinds of organized clubs. The reason for this is teammates want to make sure this new player understands that there is no individual, only a team. The established players need to know that the rookie or whoever it may be is willing to put the team before himself. This clearly isn’t an issue of rookie hazing gone wrong. Martin is a second-year player, which is why the hazing side of this story needs to be left alone altogether.
The fact of the matter is Incognito will end up playing again, and assuming his quarterback doesn’t get sacked 18 times a game no one will even care what he did to his teammate. The Dolphins will more than likely release Incognito, and he might be a free agent for a while. But when a team needs an offensive guard, there is no doubt that team will give Incognito a call, and when he does get that call, I’m sure Incognito will be a little more careful with his word choice.
Andrew Hayes is the host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.
Photo: Miami Dolphins