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Locker room bullying leads NFL player to walk out

11/6/2013, 10:57 a.m.
ESPN reports that Incognito, a nine-year veteran, left Martin a voicemail in April that included calling him the N-word (Martin ...
Martin and Incognito

By Matt Hoenig

Multiple media reports suggest that racially charged and abusive text and voice messages sent to a teammate are the reason that an NFL player has been suspended.

Richie Incognito, an offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, was suspended indefinitely by the team on Sunday following an investigation of bullying and abuse against Jonathan Martin, who walked off the team last week. Incognito and Martin are not only teammates, but they play beside one another; Martin was Miami’s starting left tackle (the outside position on the offensive line) while Incognito was the starting left guard.

ESPN, FOX Sports and CBS Sports have each reported forms of graphic, vulgar harassment and abuse that Martin was allegedly subjected to by Incognito. The reported incidents are not isolated and have gone on since Martin was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft.

ESPN reports that Incognito, a nine-year veteran, left Martin a voicemail in April that included calling him the N-word (Martin is biracial) and threatening to defecate in his mouth. “Hey, wassup, you half-n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—— mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f—— mouth. [I’m going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.” Both the team and the NFL league offices have reportedly heard the tape and have copies of it.

CBS Sports reports that Incognito also used the slur again in text messages which Martin has shared with his parents. Those messages also reportedly included threats to harm Martin’s family. According to FOX Sports, Martin is in California, undergoing therapy to deal with the emotional issues that have sidetracked his playing career.

Before the network’s Monday Night Football telecast, ESPN’s studio team of former players and coaches addressed the messages, the idea that NFL locker rooms are tough places that breed a culture of hate, and the ignorance of the Dolphins organization and players that could allow the behavior to continue.

“I think that Richie Incognito is a racist. I think he’s bigoted. I think he’s a bully. I think it’s all wrapped into one package,” former Denver Broncos’ All-Pro linebacker Tom Jackson said. “I don’t want people to be under the perception that conduct in an NFL locker, that we are not aware of what is societally OK and not OK. I’ve heard a lot of that today. ‘Well, the locker room is a place where people are very different.’ They’re not this different.

“If this kid were to decide that he wasn’t going to come back and play, somebody will have to answer for that, in terms of liability. This is off the charts.”

Former wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who retired after the 2006 season, was also alarmed about the reaction of Martin’s Dolphins teammates. “There is no place any locker room, any work environment, for this type of conduct.” Johnson said. “When you’re a rookie in this league, you come into the league, you may have to carry the pads, you may buy some food or take a guy’s car out to get washed, get tied up to a goalpost, get into the ice tub … that’s just part of that. But everything else that’s going on? That’s not hazing, that’s bullying. And Tommy’s right, he is a racist. Period. There’s no other way around it.”