Thursday, November 7, 2013

WTF Sports: What is going on with the Dolphins?

My buddy?
Like most everyone, I’ve been following the story coming out of the Dolphins locker room these past several days with a certain interest in what constitutes adult bullying.

Most reasonable people agree that Offensive Guard Richie Incognito crossed erased the line between harmless NFL rookie initiations and outright harassment in his dealings with teammate Jonathan Martin.

I can’t think of a scenario where anyone expresses to a coworker the desire to “s--- in your f------ mouth” “and slap your real mother across the face” topped off with “I’ll kill you” sans consequence. Especially once the recipient of such pleasantries complains to the boss.

I concede that being a NFL lineman is not the same as being a schoolteacher or a banker, and it is a unique workplace, but let’s not fictionalize NFL locker rooms to the point where we lead anyone to think the normal bounds of human decency don’t apply within those walls.

There is more than a subtle difference between sticking guys with an excessive dinner check and using them as human ATMs. Or the embarrassment that comes from being saddled with an ugly haircut for the summer and the humiliation that comes from being called a “half n---- piece of shit.” Again, reasonable people understand this.

What struck me Wednesday, however, is the building chorus coming from the Dolphins locker room in defense of Richie Incognito. It is clear they want us all to know that despite his use of the “n-word”, their embattled teammate is not a racist. And in the absence of other facts, I am willing to give Incognito the benefit of the doubt on that issue.

Of greater concern to me is the revelation via a former Dolphins player to Miami Herald reporter, Armando Salguero, that black Dolphins players have handed out a “honorary black” designation to Incognito. I suppose the honor comes with benefits like using the n-word without fear of repercussion, while assuming none of the risks like being subjected to pesky stop and frisk procedures by law enforcement. But, I digress …

Another former Dolphins employee indicated that Jonathan Martin’s Stanford education and personal background as the son of two highly educated parents, along with the way he “carried himself”, made Martin seem “soft” and less accepted by his black teammates in particular. After conversations with multiple people familiar with the dynamics inside Miami’s locker room, Salguero wrote, “Martin was considered less black than Incognito.”

Seriously.

This notion that a black person who talks a certain way or who is educated beyond that of his or her peers is somehow “less black” is not novel. It stretches far back to the days of slavery when “Field Negroes” were pitted against “House Negroes” as a way to divide and conquer the race and keep the inequitable system unchallenged and in place.

Today, it keeps countless young black children from reaching their highest aspirations and potential out of fear of being ostracized by friends. I am not surprised these age-old misconceptions are alive and well inside a NFL locker room. Yet, I am surprised by the new twist.

Described as “cerebral” and “studious”, I imagine Jonathan Martin has encountered the idea before that he was “less black” sometime over the course of his young life. I bet this is the first time he finds himself positioned as such against a white teammate with highly questionable motivational skills, however.

The alleged victim of bullying remains in self-exile in California while honorary blackness has been bestowed upon his alleged bully who has been suspended by the team indefinitely and who, by all accounts, is missed dearly by everyone in the locker room.

I’d like to see just one of Martin’s fellow black teammates stand up and unequivocally defend him now in ways they wouldn't because they didn't want to, or couldn't because they were unaware of the full effect the behavior was having on Martin when he was still among them.

I’d like to see Martin build or reclaim the confidence and self-esteem needed that would have allowed him to stand up for himself sooner instead of seemingly, going along to get along.

Lastly, I’d like to have Incognito’s honorary membership revoked.

6 comments:

  1. I don't think you understand how men speak behind closed doors with other men and team mates on the field when their wives, girlfriends, and other people who would be very disappointed to hear some of the things that come out of our mouths are not around. The vocal ones like Richie are by far the worst but every player is guilty. I'm sure the same is true with women and their girls nights but alas, I have no credibility regarding those conversations. It's about having thick skin and being mentally tough enough to realize those are just words. Words that have no meaning until you let them bother you. This is a free country in which people can say what ever they so chose, within obvious bounds, and it is up to the person receiving those threats to stand up for themselves regardless of their sex. I'm pretty sure we all learn that in elementary school when the kid who's having trouble at home takes it out on the rest of the class. In a competitive sport weakness, as seen by the rest of the team, is like blood in the water to a shark. If you're mentally weak you get rooted out for being soft regardless of where you went to school and IQ level. He should have came right back with something or not say anything at all and simply put him on his back on the practice field, parking lot, or locker room. Everyone isn't as nice as you and I Rebkah, and that's how you deal with a bully while treating everyone else the same. You have to notice that a lot of the players are pretty insane when they are on the field.

    The insanity that is pro football is not for the light hearted. Lets not even get started trying to compare a football locker room to a real working environment because there is absolutely no comparison. The honorary black thing is ridiculous and I agree with you but the whole bullying notion in regards to the NFL with grown giants is like saying the USMC needs to stop being so harsh on their new recruits. Everything has a purpose and it's to find out if you are a baby or actually have a pair. The off field crap like the money issue is part of the NFL and all rookies pay for the vets meals and trips. The costs are spread throughout the rookies so lets not feel bad about the professional athletes making even at the minimum 400K (he actually makes $607,466). At least in the NFL they get paid a whole lot more than our vastly more deserving and under respected Military personnel. Although some professional and collegiate teams have embraced some of the Navy SEALs training routines, how can you truly compare anything to the physical and mental stress of the military?

    Great blog, you just gained a reader. I liked your article about Grambling, we had it like that at our Division II School for a long time and it was terrible until we got more funding. Every time we worked out it was like playing Russian roulette with a staph infection!

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  2. I read this piece on Fox Sports and I must say, I am very glad you wrote and thank you for putting it out there. Though I think you should have went in much more, on the racial dynamics amongst Black america that this well educated, two parent home reared football player is some how less black, than that of a white guy in the locker room threatning his family bullying him?! Or my favorite part that he was bestowed honorary membership in the Black Peoples Corps of America, that comes with unlimited use of the Nword and all the chicken wings he wants. ha ha.
    Thanks for the writing this and giving a real opinion to this situation that we outside the locker room, really black people with "sense" (same as these players,college educated) would say about this. Hopefully just like the foolishness that these black players have said has made its rounds this article and perspective will do that same.

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  3. As a retired sportswriter who went into locker rooms for 43 years I can say that the environment is conducive to men acting like boys and not very bright boys either. Yet this episode with Richie Incognito and Jonathon Martin sounds like a new low. Maybe only fraternities have worse hazing and rituals than an NFL locker room but at least a pledge goes in with his eyes open. The mistake people make is that you can't "toughen up" someone's personality. You can make Martin physically stronger, leaner and quicker but you can't change who he is. People who are fearful are guided by the principle of fight or flight. It has nothing to do with how big you are. Yes, in this case size does not matter. The Dolphins management drafted Martin on the basis of his talent and potential. If they had done a thorough job on investigating his personality they might have passed and looked for a more aggressive, if less talented lineman. But the idea that you can make someone mean when it is not in his makeup is absurd. What happens is that the individual feels isolated and rejected. The kind of anger that builds up is what you see in a lot of those twisted people who get assault weapons and turn their rage on the perceived targets of their unhappiness or they become self-destructive. I wouldn't suggest this is what a bright, well-educated young man like Martin would do, but coaches need to be better schooled in how to deal with players as people. You cannot treat them all the same.

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    1. One of greatest sports movies of all time...Remember the Titans. I think there is a quote in there from Denzel's character. "Now I may be a mean cuss. But I'm the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that football field. The world don't give a damn about how sensitive these kids are, especially the young black kids. You ain't doin' these kids a favor by patronizing them. You crippling them; You crippling them for life." Life is tough and all this sheltering isn't doing any favors. People can and do toughen up by dealing and overcoming adversity. The problem is we don't always face rejection or adversity until way farther in life than was the norm 20 years ago. Humans adapt and overcome. And, a lot of the times we even surprise ourselves with how strong we are.

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  4. whats' goin on in Dolpin's Locker Room has inadvertly put a microscope on race in America. This microscope should be aimed at the notion: being black being limited; if your an educated black your either Uncle Tom'n , brain washed, or simply not black enough. This type of idiotodsy must come to a end. parents must raise their children to conquer this behavior.

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  5. What astonishes me is the fact that all these reporters want to turn this into a race issue. Would it make you feel any better to find out that Martin has called Incognito a honky or a cracker at some point? Would we even be in the same boat if Martin was white and had left after receiving a voicemail from a black player using one of those racial slurs? First, let me say that if you don't want someone using a specific word that you feel offends you, then you should not use that word either (or blare music with it). If the N word is so bad, why not let it die? We all know who keeps it alive. If we are such a racist America, how come there aren't more race issues with Mexicans, Indians, or Asians? I know what would be the response, "They were never slaves". But, neither were we! Maybe your ancestors were, but white ancestors died fighting in the civil war for YOUR freedom. While the past is sad and tragic, white people have helped to get where we are today. We have a black president today. How many of us are trying to extend the same hand that was extended for us? Working toward ending gang violence? Working to give poor children in the ghetto (white or black) a road to get out? The problem is we use the race card when it is convenient and far too often. An insult is an insult. Whether it is racial, mental, or physical, it is still an insult. And, one is no better than another. My Grandmother told me when I was young, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". Still good advice today. Can't we all just get along? If we could just all work together for the better good of mankind as a whole, we would already live in a different world. I will step down from my soap box now.

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