One of the biggest news stories in sports during the past few months has surrounded former Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito. Incognito has been the center of an investigation regarding the supposed bullying of his Miami teammate Jonathon Martin. This scandal rocked the Dolphins locker room this season, jeopardizing the team’s performance as well as the positions of the coaching staff and Incognito.
Initial reports seemed to suggest that a prolonged period of bullying had been tolerated in Miami with Incognito serving as the main culprit. New evidence in this case has turned it on its head, as it now appears that the accusations against Incognito may have been exaggerated.
Initial speculations regarding Incognito’s abusive behavior were backed by the release of threatening cell phone conversations between Martin and Incognito. A report from CBS discusses this evidence as voicemails and text messages from Incognito that included racial slurs, threats against Martin’s family and other disturbing exchanges.
Martin came forward early in the 2013-2014 football season claiming that this type of abuse had been a constant during his two seasons as Incognito’s teammate. It appeared that the emotional abuse had finally become too much, prompting him to seek legal council in a case against Incognito. Martin claimed to be suffering from emotional distress caused by Incognito, causing him to check into a hospital to seek emotional rehab.
When this news went public it sparked a unified onslaught against Incognito from the media and from fans on Twitter and Facebook. These accusations were accepted without question, citing Incognito’s reputation as a dirty player with a bad attitude.
New evidence was recently introduced in this case as Incognito’s attorney released text messages that were sent to his client from Martin. These text messages displayed a mutual exchange of insults between the two parties that appeared to be friendly and insincere in nature.
One of the texts from Martin even included a threat to Incognito’s family, which is ironic considering a similar text from Incognito has been one of the most controversial points in this case. This new evidence raises questions as to whether Martin was actually the victim of bullying, or if this was simply a matter of two friends jokingly exchanging insults.
While it appears that Incognito is not entirely innocent in this case, viewing it as a one-sided affair with a clear victim and bully doesn’t seem warranted. Football is a sport with a tough culture. Players get paid to play tough and act tough. In this case it seems that the good-natured banter that goes on among NFL players may have been taken too far in this case. Threats against one’s family and racial slurs certainly push the limits of what can be considered harmless jokes.
Nevertheless, the new evidence in this case suggests that Martin was by no means innocent, as he dished out his fair share of insults and vulgarity toward Incognito. When Incognito’s text messages and voicemails are analyzed by themselves they appear to be abusive and out of line. On the other hand, when they are presented alongside Martin’s messages, it appears that both players engaged in similar levels of insults and bullying.
This new evidence suggests that Incognito may in fact be the one that has been mistreated in this case, as the initial reports didn’t share his side of the story. It was easy for people to jump to conclusions about Incognito considering that he is widely considered one of the most aggressive and violent players in the NFL. In this case it appears that Incognito might have been the one on the receiving end of some unwarranted aggression as his name has been dragged through the dirt by the media and NFL fans for the past few months.