*Richie Incognito is getting a raw deal.
Not because he didn’t say some nasty things – he admits that he did; not because he’s not a bully – he owns his personality type as aggressive. Incognito is getting a raw deal because he’s the only person being raked over the coals.
At issue is his behavior toward his teammate Jonathan Martin who apparently needed to be toughened up. So someone in the Miami Dolphin organization (it is unclear whether this was a font office decision because of the investment they made in Martin or whether it was a coaching decision because of their faith in Incognito as a member of the team’s leadership council) determined that Incognito would help Martin along. In completing this task Incognito was verbally abusive.
There are multiple things wrong with this picture. First there is the problem with the organization allowing Incognito, in however small a way, to be one of the public faces of the franchise. Professional football is a brutal way to make a living and most of the men who make their living in it are relentless and have an edge. Incognito was one of those rough and tough types. But as an organization the goal is not to present that side of things to the public. So while there is certainly room for Incognito to have a job as a football player, someone with an office should have known better than to label him as an exemplar of the team.
Another problem is that while Incognito and Martin played basically the same position (both were offensive linemen), it is not surprising that there was a clash of personality types . Incognito is an outgoing type, he is the kind that likes the spotlight. Martin is introspective and prefers less of the limelight. I’m not sure Incognito would be my first choice to mentor Martin because I’m not sure if Incognito can understand Martin’s perspective. He would be trying to get Martin to be more like him, which would only make Martin’s introvertedness stronger.
The biggest issue with this whole situation is that apparently no one in the entire Miami Dolphins organization had any idea there was the slightest of problems – at least that’s what their story has been thus far. I can imagine a scenario in which Martin suffered in silence and didn’t do anything to arouse suspicion. But then this means the organization is not the sort of place he felt safe enough to speak about what he was going through. Or if people on the inside did know they turned a blind eye to the situation. Neither of these paints a nice picture of the Miami Dolphins facilities as a nice place to work.
Because of the culture of the organization Incognito was one of the leaders. It seems to me the organization saw in him the kind of person that perfectly reflected the culture they had nurtured. So of course he became a member of the team’s leadership council. And when a newer player needs mentoring Incognito is the perfect person to indoctrinate Martin into the Dolphin way of doing things. When Martin did allegedly speak with someone they told him to physically settle the issue. Martin allegedly sent some strongly worded texts to Incognito. These things all fall in line with the way things were being done down in Miami.
Some might say that this is football and Martin needs to toughen up; okay then give Incognito back his job. Some might say that this information should have stayed in the locker room; okay then give Incognito back his job. Some might say that Miami was dysfunctional and Martin is the real victim. Okay do we believe that Incognito was the source of the dysfunction in Miami? No – well then give him back his job.
Because no matter how you view the events, Incognito is being scapegoated. And he is being victimized just as much as Martin ever was.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.