On Sunday night, the Miami Dolphins Offensive Lineman, Richie Incognito gave his first in depth television interview since being suspended in an alleged bullying scandal that involved fellow teammate, Jonathan Martin. Sitting down with Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, Incognito admitted he “had taken things too far, and had not meant to hurt [Jonathan Martin]”, whilst also acknowledging that his behaviour “had been a cancer in locker rooms in the past.” Despite this, he was keen to point out that his relationship with Martin was not as fractured as everyone thought.
“I was a close friend of Jonathan’s” said Incognito, “you can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins locker room, who had Jon Martin’s back the absolute most? And they will undoubtedly tell you, me… I text him [4 days after he left the team] and he text me back saying ‘'I don’t blame you guys. I blame some stuff in the locker room. I blame the culture. I blame what was going on around me.'
Incognito also wanted to clear his name in regard to the voicemail he left Martin several months ago, which contained numerous expletives and racist language.
“Yes, I did leave this voice message. When I see that voicemail, I’m embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed by my actions. But what I want people to know is, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates communicate, it’s vulgar. It’s not right. When the words are put in the context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised, but people don’t know how Jon and I communicate to one another.
“A week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me, 'I will murder your whole (expletive) family.' Now did I think Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit. I know it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate. That puts in context how we communicate with one another.”
He went on to say “I'm not a racist. And to judge me by that one word is wrong. In no way, shape or form is it ever acceptable for me to use that word. I regret that.”
When asked by Glazer whether the N-word was used regularly in the NFL, Incognito replied “It’s thrown around a lot. It’s a word that I’ve heard Jon use a lot.”
In the final section of his interview, if given the chance to see to Martin now, Incognito said ‘I would give him a big hug… If [Martin] were to say, 'Listen, you took it way too far. You hurt me.’... You know, I would just apologize and I would apologize to his family. They took it as malicious. I never meant it that way.”
The scandal has polarised opinion around the NFL as it has created a divide on whether Martin should have been tougher in dealing with his teammates, or whether Incognito simply went too far.
On Wednesday, Dolphins players were asked to comment on the scandal and were noticeably quick to defend Incognito. Starting Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, 25, led the names of high profile players to so, describing the suspended player as ‘the best teammate you could ask for’. Right Tackle Tyson Clabo also told the Miami Herald, “I’ve been here long enough to know that if Martin had a problem, he didn’t show it. … I think that if you have a problem with somebody … [you should] stand up and be a man”.
In a bid by Jonathan Martin’s representatives to extinguish any idea that the blame for the fallout lay with their client, a statement was released the following day explaining who was at fault.
“Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not at issue… Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. He attempted to befriend the same teammates that subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued. Beyond the well-publicized voicemail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments”
As battle lines begin to be drawn between the two camps, both of the players’ futures with Miami are still unknown. Incognito could technically return to the team’s facilities if he was to appeal his current suspension. However this would likely cause further controversy for the Dolphins organisation, something they will be trying to avoid as they aim to get back to winning football games.