Former Dolphins’ Teammate Claims Incognito Was Martin’s Biggest Ally In Clubhouse

  • Jake O'Donnell

Human beings have boundaries. Human beings have quirks. And, yes, professional football players are human beings — and they need to be respected as such, even if it means treating them exceptionally. Even if it means leaving them alone and suffering the consequences of “bad locker room chemistry” because one guy doesn’t fit in. Richie Incognito should have left Jonathan Martin alone after a certain point. Instead, he (and the organization) pulled out the tough love card. Now they’re all in deep shit.

And they should be.

Our vague cultural definition of bullying aside, it’s wrong to invade someone’s privacy without their consent. It’s wrong to overstep their boundaries.

Bottom line: If you can tell a coworker is uncomfortable, you need to take a step back and give them the space they need.

Whether that’s bullying or not is irrelevant. It’s about treating people how they want to be treated — even if they’re a bit odd.

Sure, they may have some unresolved issues or a chip on their shoulder or difficulty integrating, but it’s not on their coworkers to fix that, no matter how valiant it may seem. It’s always about respecting the individual, first and foremost. That comes before team. That comes before pretty much everything. It’s a basic social tenant of modern civilization. Richie Incognito didn’t seem to understand that.

(Nor does he understand the similarly important rule of “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service.)

Apparently, neither does former Dolphins tackle Lyndon Murtha, who saw Jonathan Martin as a loner who was tended to by Incognito. He saw Incognito as a caretaker. A friend. And Murtha thinks that somehow exonerates Incognito for his alleged abuse of Murtha. Not so fast, dude.

[] “I don’t believe Richie Incognito bullied Jonathan Martin,” he wrote. “I never saw Martin singled out, excluded from anything, or treated any differently than the rest of us. We’d have dinners and the occasional night out, and everyone was invited. He was never told he can’t be a part of this. It was the exact opposite. But when he came out, he was very standoffish. That’s why the coaches told the leaders, bring him out of his shell. Figure him out a little bit.”

In many ways, Murtha’s statements on Boomer and Carton today disperse the blame for what took place in the Miami locker room, but that’s not to say that the blame should be any less harsh. Just because a group of people work in tandem to commit a crime, it doesn’t mean the error individual responsibility is somehow diminished. The simple fact is that — for whatever reason — Jonathan Martin didn’t fit in. If he was gay or disabled or autistic or odd or too smart or too dumb or just plain old angry, the reality is that he never felt comfortable there, and the team responded by trying to force him to be comfortable. To “break him down,” so to speak. Sorry, but it’s 2013. Man or not — that’s crossing a line.

[] “From the beginning, when he was drafted in April 2012, Martin did not seem to want to be one of the group,” Murtha wrote. “He came off as standoffish and shy to the rest of the offensive linemen. He couldn’t look anyone in the eye, which was puzzling for a football player at this level on a team full of grown-ass men. We all asked the same question: Why won’t he be open with us? What’s with the wall being put up? I never really figured it out.”

Translation: We don’t understand you in your current form so we’ll send an emotionally tone def enforcer to turn you into something we DO understand. Problem solving at its finest. Even if Incognito was the best teammate ever to 50 of the other guys on the team — he rubbed one of them the wrong way and didn’t back down. Now he’s paying the consequences.