Why Both Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin Are To Blame for ‘Bullying’ Fiasco
In reading the tea leaves, it now looks as if the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin impasse involves one angry, boisterous loose cannon fighting with a maladjusted, immature man-child who quit on his team after being benched.
When the story first broke, the narrative was different than it is now. We heard Jonathan Martin’s side—the Stanford-educated product of Harvard-educated lawyers—who was being bullied and harassed by Richie Incognito—a man with a reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the games.
There were allegations of racial slurs being thrown around, as well as the implication that other teammates were involved. Investigations were ordered and ineffective committees were formed to help rectify the issue.
Nobody really knew quite what happened but everyone took a side. The culture of the Dolphins locker room was questioned, as well as the integrity of the game itself. Even the sexuality of one (or both) players was questioned by fans on Twitter, and privately in conversations.
But the fact remains, both of these players are to blame. Both have played the role of villains in this movie.
At first, Martin would get a break due partly to his background, upbringing and education, and partly due to Richie’s previous reputation.
Martin left the Dolphins prior to their Halloween Night game against the Cincinnati Bengals to seek help after an outburst after being victim to a prank. At first he checked into a local hospital before seeking help with family.
Since then, Martin has kept a low profile, save for an interview with NBC’s Tony Dungy where he stated: “I felt trapped like I didn’t have a way to make it right. And it came down to the point where, you know, I thought it was best just to remove myself from the situation.”
However, Martin’s version of the story has since been partially contradicted by a few key pieces of evidence, including a (NSFW) picture of him obtained by TMZ.com, of Martin enjoying himself at a strip club. The same report mentions a few text messages where Martin told Incognito that he was “all about the strip club!!”
The biggest nail in the coffin of Martin’s story would come when Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead obtained text messages exchanged between Martin and Incognito that took place between October of 2012 and October of 2013.
The texts show Martin as a willing participant in debauchery that would make even the least prude of old women clutch their pearls, citing drug use, prostitution and trips to strip clubs, while also sharing internet memes and emojis.
The last few texts discussed the scandal, showing Incognito being concerned with Martin’s well-being. Then, upon the news of the scandal as it broke, Martin contacted Incognito when questioned about it: “I got nothing to do with it man I haven’t said anything to anyone.”
Factor in the timing (the Dolphins had just made a trade with the Baltimore Ravens for left tackle Bryant McKinnie and moved Martin from left tackle to right tackle), and Martin comes off as a player who had struggled on the field, saw himself being replaced, and mentally broke down. His performance just wasn’t cutting it.
Because of that, Incognito comes off not as the bully he was portrayed as, but as a man who might have taken some of his language and actions a bit too far, then felt betrayed by someone he considered a close friend that he had concern for.
Prior to Wednesday, it likely would’ve ended there, and likely would’ve been the conclusion made by Ted Wells’ investigation. Incognito would go on to tweet his support for Martin last week, furthering that possibility.
— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 4, 2014
While it is still the likely outcome and truth of this manner, this does not exonerate Incognito, who on Wednesday went on a massive Twitter rant. In the course of the rant, Incognito started off attacking Martin’s agent, then Martin himself, before dropping this bombshell:
FACT: Jonathan Martin told me he thought about taking his own life in MAY 2013 b/c he wasn’t playing well. Told me he felt worthless.
— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 12, 2014
This little tidbit is news that Martin likely told Incognito in confidence (if he told him anything about this at all), and is not something he wanted to nor expected to get leaked to the public. Regardless of the circumstances, this was a low-blow on Incognito’s part, and along with the rants against Martin, contradicted what he had tweeted a week before in support of Martin.
We’re still waiting on the final report from Ted Wells’ investigation, but it feels safe to come to this conclusion.
There are no good guys here, and no sides to take either. But we did learn something from this fiasco: Wait until all of the information comes out before taking sides, and remember that just because we know what these athletes do on Sundays, doesn’t mean we know about what they do off the field and how they act in the locker room.