Incognito No More: the NFL Hazing Scandal

Anyone even remotely tuned in to the world of American sports, has undoubtedly heard about the Miami Dolphins hazing scandal. The story has blown up, different facts and reports are splayed across national news and social media. At this point, no one knows the real truth. After all, there are three sides to a story like this: what one side says, what the other side says, and the truth.

Let’s meet the players. In this corner, weighing in at 312 pounds, in his second season with the Miami Dolphins, is Jonathon Martin. Martin played his college career at Stanford, turning down a chance to attend Harvard, the alma mater of both of his parents. In the opposite corner, weighing in at 324 pounds, in his eighth year in the NFL and third with the Dolphins, is Richie Incognito. Incognito went into the league after college football at the University of Nebraska.
Now the altercation. It was claimed that Incognito bullied, hazed, and mistreated  Martin, which caused him to leave the Dolphins as well as check himself into the hospital for ‘emotional issues.’ That is the story, but is it all true?


Both Martin and Incognito are offensive lineman, Martin a tackle and Incognito a guard, meaning that they would play side by side. One would expect a group of offensive lineman playing for the same team in the NFL to be very close, especially those playing next to each other. This assumption was backed up by reports from other Dolphins players.
“If you asked Jonathan Martin who his best friend is on this team two weeks ago, he’d say Richie Incognito,” said quarterback Ryan Tannehill, according to a USA Today article entitled “Dolphins Players Defend Incognito, Question Martin in Bullying Case.”

According to an article entitled “Incognito and Martin: An Insider’s Story” on sportsillustrated.com, ex-dolphin lineman Lydon Murtha said that Incognito, a veteran, took Martin, a rookie, “under his wing.” A comment found to be very interesting, considering that most previous reports would lead the public to believe that Incognito beat him with that very wing.

So what is it that Incognito did to him? Most reports mention three different incidents. The first says that Martin was forced to pay $15,000 for a trip that he did not attend. Murtha clears up this incident of ‘hazing’ by saying that the offensive linemen take an annual trip to Las Vegas (“The Hangover” 300 pound edition?) This trip is paid for in advance. Murtha says that at the last minute, Martin backed out, and it was too late to get his money back. Possibly shady, yes, but hazing, no.

Secondly, reports said that Martin sat down at a table with teammates and they all got up and left. All defense says that this is a common joke played on players. It is rude I suppose, but come on, this isn’t elementary school.

The third report is by far the most conducive to negative feelings about Incognito. Transcripts of messages Incognito sent to Martin leaked into the media. The messages were beyond expletive, and were threatening. But the worst thing about the messages is the racial slur that white Incognito used against the bi-racial Martin. This is most likely what forced the Dolphins organization to suspend Incognito earlier last week.

Why would Incognito say these things? Some of his teammates defend him as being a jokester. He had an altercation with his head coach in his years with the Rams. He was suspended in his 2004 year at Nebraska for off the field issues. When he was playing with the Rams he spoke up about his therapy for anger management and substance abuse. The kind of guy Incognito is may not be compatible with who Martin is.

According to the New York Daily News, Vic Eumont had this to say about Martin: “Before, Martin wasn’t around Nebraska, LSU kind of guys. He’s always been around Stanford, Duke, Rice kind of players.” Translation: Martin is used to nice, civilized people.

What may be most interesting, is that Martin has yet to speak out for himself. It was ‘Martin’s people’ who sent the Dolphins organization the reveling messages. Martin himself has never directly indicted Incognito. Is Incognito just a scapegoat for Martin’s emotional problems? Is Incognito just a bad person?

We don’t have the answers to these questions yet, and maybe we never will. Though I try to keep conspiracy theories out of football, it may be beneficial to look at the role the Dolphins organization plays in this. The Dolphins, a mediocre 4-4 football team with about zero chance of beating the Patriots for the AFC east, haven’t produced anything good since Dan Marino. Maybe no publicity is bad publicity.

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