This Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying story will be one of the most remembered stories of 2013. It should be also be a clear glimpse into just how shadowy an NFL locker room can be.
In fact, the sketchiness of locker rooms does not have to be merely confined to that of the NFL’s. It should be extended to that of all male sports. With so much testosterone overflowing like the Atlantic Ocean at high tide on the South Florida coastline, it should not be surprising when a story like this comes out into the open for everyone to see.
Incognito recently did the above interview with Jay Glazer at Fox Sports that was aired before the Sunday afternoon slate of games on Fox in which he mentioned why Martin left the Miami Dolphins had to do with the culture of the Dolphins’ locker room.
Glazer did a great job with that interview, and while Fox did edit out various points of what was seen on Fox on Sunday afternoon, the part about locker room culture was what stood out to me.
We should be acting less surprised when one of these stories comes out. It is not necessarily only the Fins’ locker room that embraces this “macho-man” (almost Gladiator-esque) psyche. It is the entire league. It is, infact, a byproduct of the uber-intense competition and training these guys put themselves through just to make one of the league’s 32 rosters, let alone play 16 games a season. Also, these players regularly change teams, so what they bring with them to another locker room almost immediately becomes a part of another.
The comparison that is made in terms of the NFL is that it is one huge fraternity. This Richie Incognito story could not make that analogy more true. Sports locker rooms, especially those in male sport, are truly being exposed in the public eye as one big frat house. Ironically, hazing is something common among both sports locker rooms and college fraternities.
I always love to mention the role of the media when it comes to stories like this, because it also one that is extremely obvious. The media was able to get to a shady story inside the Dolphins’ locker room that involved a rookie being bullied, pestered with racial slurs, and attempting to be coerced into paying $15,000 for another teammate’s trip to party in Las Vegas.
Again, this is par for the course, not an exception to the rule. Given the culture of NFL and male sports’ locker rooms, who is to say that there aren’t Richie Incognitos and Jonathan Martins in every other locker room.
Also, the Incognito bullying of Martin story was the huge scoop, but what about the fact that there are allegations of Incognito sexually harassing a woman on a golf course? Or former Eagle Shawn Andrews coming out and saying he was bullied by Donovan McNabb? What are these side dishes are even served hot out of the kitchen without the preparation of the main course that was “Bullygate”?
We should be able to figure this one out without being bribed into paying $15,000 for a trip to Sin City—not very good.
One can mention Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland all they want and how they likely will lose their jobs over this scandal. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is notably unhappy over all of this negative press his team has received as of late. The unmasking of one locker room will (unfortunately) not lead to a fundamental change of locker rooms throughout the league.
And those that don’t immediately embrace the macho-man mentality of the NFL the moment they put on their team hat at Draft Night are tagged as soft by not only fellow players, but also fans. It has been one of the criticisms of Martin in this whole scenario and why many have actually rushed to the defense of Incognito.
It is one thing to be referred to as soft on the football field. That is a problem that is normally worked out between the player and a coaching staff. It is another thing to be called “soft” when in the NFL and dealing with an issue that has the least bit to do with X’s and O’s.
By this logic (or lack thereof), one must not only be a macho-man on the field, but also one off the field. It’s the same logic some use when they legitimize violent crimes by saying that the victim let it happen by not being “tough” enough to ward off an aggressor without relying on 911.
Again—this is part of the culture of NFL locker rooms. Par for the course, not the exception to the rule.
This story has so many layers to it that it can be compared to an onion. As we know, when you cut an onion, it causes water to heavily build up in your eyes. For some, this has been their reaction to this story. We should not be surprised.
Richie Incognito is not the first person accused of bullying, nor will he be the last, especially with the culture of how rookies, like Jonathan Martin, are asked to undergo their “initiation process” into the NFL. Just like the New Orleans Saints weren’t the first team that was thought to have a bounty program going on. The Saints just happened to get caught—just like Incognito (and Mike Pouncey as well) happened to get busted.
I said that when the Bountygate scandal erupted a couple of years ago, that the NFL needed to open up a leaguewide investigation to see if this, indeed, present throughout the NFL. A leaguewide investigation into these incidences sounds awfully like it needs to happen after the Dolphins have been exposed as a mess.
When the NFL Network was launched ten years ago, it, along with increased coverage of the league by other sports media outlets across the United States and Canada, touted how this increased coverage would allow fans greater access “inside the locker rooms” of the NFL’s 32 teams.
Unearthing stories of bounties, bullying, hazing gone wild, and bribery may not have initially been part of the media’s plan in terms of what stories to cover. But, the fan’s eye view inside these enclosed bastions of testosterone in overdrive appears clearer after this “Beach” of a story.
And, more true.