Lynne Sladky/AP
Lynne Sladky/AP

Confronting Race, Head On

The ugliness in Miami this week brought to the forefront the serious and complex issue of what’s accepted and what’s not in the locker room and beyond, and when a real leader must step up

By
Robert Klemko
· More from Robert·

From now until the opening of training camps, The MMQB will run a series of our Greatest Hits from the site’s first year. From November, Robert Klemko on the role race played in the Miami Dolphins locker room scandal…

Note from The MMQB’s editor-in-chief, Peter King:

Please be forewarned that the following story contains provocative language that some may find offensive. The incident involving Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has prompted an examination by people inside and outside of football on race relations in the locker room. Our Robert Klemko, who has been on the scene in Miami this week, writes about race and this story. We at the site had to decide whether to use the terms this story has brought to the fore: namely “nigger” and “half-nigger.” In normal reporting, we would not spell out such offensive words, but because of Klemko’s subject matter we decided to use them in full, feeling it would be distracting or confusing to do otherwise, and that an honest discussion requires that we talk about these terms in the open. I apologize in advance to those who are offended by their use. To comment, please send an email to talkback@themmqb.com.

MIAMI — As with so many people, as soon as I read the voicemail transcript that ignited the public saga of the Miami Dolphins and bullying, I was taken aback by the prospect of veteran guard Richie Incognito calling second-year tackle Jonathan Martin a half-nigger. This is hate speech, I thought, and surely it was a one-time thing. It was hard to believe that a white man calling a black man a nigger could be acceptable practice in an NFL locker room that is overwhelmingly black.

In the process of covering the larger story, I traveled to Florida and persuaded retired former Dolphins lineman Lydon Murtha to write his first-person account of the relationship between Incognito and Martin, and he told me something shocking: After only several months of knowing one another, Murtha had heard Incognito call Martin the same thing to his face during position meetings, and Martin laughed. And that voicemail? Teammate Brian Hartline told reporters that Martin had played it for the locker room to hear and again laughed.

I called people I trust within the NFL community (not Martin’s agents) who’d had dealings with the young man. And they said Incognito had left voicemails calling Martin a nigger previous to the infamous one released this month, and whether it was said in anger or jest, it had troubled Martin, but he didn’t know what to do.

I texted several black current and former NFL players I know, and asked them, what would you do? The reaction was unanimous: I can’t even imagine it happening. I texted with two veteran coaches who said they had never seen such a thing in the NFL.

“It’s not common at all,” an AFC coach said. “You know when people are joking, but the black players I know would not appreciate anybody joking with them like that.”

jonathan-martin-dolphins-line
The Dolphins offensive line, minus Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, practicing this week. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Retired Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo had a story that seemed related, if only tangentially. At one point last season, Ravens players were listening to Yung Joc’s “It’s Goin’ Down” in the locker room. A white player recited a lyric with the word “nigga.” Ayanbadejo says a “fun debate” ensued. Was it okay for him to recite the word in a lyric? There’s a fine line, Ayanbadejo says. Like it or not, a large number of African-Americans in the league find the word’s use acceptable among themselves, though not among white players at large. There were white men on the team who were permitted to use the word as a term of endearment (as in, What’s up, my nigga?) because of the conditions of their youth. Through underprivileged childhoods, some had built up an amount of credibility. They weren’t quite “honorary black guys,” as Incognito has been described by a former Dolphins teammate, but they were close.

“If you’re from the hood and you grew up with black guys, then you can get away with saying it as a term of endearment,” Ayanbadejo says. “You can say, ‘my nigga.’ ”

Yet the idea that a white player would actually call somebody a nigger in anger or jest was utterly unfathomable.

“That wouldn’t fly,” Ayanbadejo said.

The line between my nigga and you nigger was clearly defined. Incognito seemed to be somewhat in congruence with the spirit of this unofficial race-relations policy when, as seen in a video released by TMZ, he stood drunken and shirtless at a bar and referred to black teammate Mike Pouncey as “Mike Pouncey. Nigga!” But in calling Martin a half-nigger, Incognito had obliterated the line. Simultaneously, Martin was being bullied for being black, and not black enough. Plus, Incognito did this in front of people.

* * *

So how did this happen? How did it become okay for a black player to be the subject of even one instance of hate speech in one locker room, while, from what I could gather, it was unthinkable in eight other organizations?

“That’s a big question,” said Kordell Stewart, the former Steeler quarterback, who is black. “I have never heard anything like that before in my life. For that to happen, all I can say is the brothers on that team have lost their minds, to allow it.”

There is no leadership,” Kordell Stewart says of the Dolphins’ locker room. “It takes strong men, invested enough to say, ‘No, that’s not happening.’

 Stewart went on to explain that the word “nigger” and its friendlier variation were not words uttered by white teammates, and black players who used them were careful not to do so around white people, so as to avoid giving the impression that it was acceptable common speech. Clearly, things changed at some point in the eight years since Stewart’s retirement.

“We just didn’t say it around everybody,” Stewart said. “Incognito has obviously been around black men who have allowed him to say it if he wants to. It tells you how their locker room is, and that’s why their team struggles because there is no leadership. It takes strong men, invested enough to say, ‘No, that’s not happening.’ ”

Stewart made it clear that a locker-room leader in any locker room, regardless of the black-white composition of the team, could be white; he could be black. The problem, Stewart said, is that Incognito is the alpha male in the locker room. The ideal leader is principled, even-tempered and respectful because he dictates the social rules. And Incognito is none of those things.

“He’s reckless, plain and simple,’’ said Stewart. “People don’t question him because he’s domineering and a Pro Bowler, and a lot of the young guys on the team are afraid of that. What are you gonna do? Beat him up? Jump him?

“If somebody like Derrick Brooks or Warren Sapp was in there, he would never say that.”

The AFC coach agreed: “It’s a total lack of respect and leadership.”

After spending two days in the Miami locker room, I had yet to find a Derrick Brooks or a Warren Sapp in the bunch. They defended Incognito as a good teammate, and suggested Martin was the outsider. Asked if it was okay for a white person to say “nigger,” rookie defensive end Dion Jordan said he didn’t believe it was an acceptable word for anyone to say.

So would he step up and object if he heard a player say it?

“Well that’s between the player and whoever he’s talking to,” Jordan said.

* * *

Listening to Jordan, I recalled two of the several dozen times I’ve personally been called a “nigger,” and I came to understand the crux of the race problem in Miami.

I am mixed, a term which in its modern application applies more accurately to me than Martin, whose parents are both black, or mixed, or however they choose to identify. My father is Ukrainian-American and my mother is African-American, and I’ve been called a “nigger” and a “half-nigger” and other related slurs in jest and in anger by drunk and sober people alike. The second time it ever happened I was 16. I had interrupted a conversation between two of my white high school football teammates before practice.

One fired back at me, “We were talking here, you f—ing mulatto.”

A mulatto, in case you’re blissfully ignorant of the slur, was once the label for children born from the rape of African slaves by their white masters.

I didn’t know what to do. I was angry and I saw this as a dangerous precedent. I thought if this guy can just call me a mulatto and there are no immediate consequences, it opens the door for anybody to call me that. They’ll drop the word in jest and say, We’re just joking. Why are you mad, now? Then I remembered the last time somebody called me a “half-nigger:” three years before when I was a diminutive freshman and the subject of bullying by football seniors. One day I told the star offensive player on the team, who was black, that one white senior had called me a “half-nigger.” And just like that, it stopped.

I reasoned three years later that I didn’t want our team to be the kind of group that preyed on each other emotionally on the basis of race. I would have to do something in that moment to make this insult an anomaly. I probably didn’t even have to hurt him; I could have cussed him out, or battered him in practice, but in those 60 seconds of contemplation I realized my teammate would never have used a slur against me if he had considered me blacker. He felt that my light skin and white dad gave him some kind of pass. I saw red.

Maybe Martin was truly above it all, and he took the wisest course of action and walked away, exposing the NFL warrior ethos for all of its self-perpetuating ugliness.

As we walked to practice, I walked in front of him and pushed him, so he knew he was in a fight, and then I threw haymakers at his face with both fists. There was blood everywhere: My white pants, his face, my hands. It was pooling on the pavement bordering our practice field as he dropped to his knees, hugging my leg. That’s when I stopped.

Would I do the same thing today if, for instance, a colleague called me a mulatto in anger? Probably not. I’d go to jail, and it just doesn’t seem like a reasonable way to solve conflicts anymore. But Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito play in the NFL, where,  right or wrong, an acceptable level of violence outside of the lines is often seen as a necessary display of passion. Essential, even. Fights get covered up by teams when they happen in private and explained as “competitive fire” when they happen publicly. Operating in this warped moral bubble, why didn’t Martin stand up for himself? Why didn’t he fight, as the team’s general manager, Jeff Ireland, reportedly suggested to Martin’s agent? Maybe he was afraid to face Incognito, the stronger man more prone to violence. Or maybe he was truly above it all, and he took the wisest course of action and walked away, exposing the NFL warrior ethos for all of its self-perpetuating ugliness in an admirable move which, admittedly, I would be incapable of.

But Martin should have never had to walk away. He was a Miami Dolphin. He is, by most accounts, quiet and guarded with his emotions. He is light-skinned, his parents are Harvard-educated, and he might seem nothing like most of the black guys in the locker room. Said Roman Oben, who played 12 seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman, “If you’re like Martin, and you’re black and you have money and an education and can go and make $200,000 not playing football, you’re going to be more scrutinized than everybody else. That’s the unfortunate truth. And without the leaders around who would step in, you’re going to be expected to stand up for yourself.”

Martin was still a Miami Dolphin, though. And there were other Miami Dolphins, black and white, who knew that Richie Incognito was so comfortable with harassing this man, he crossed a racial line clearly defined across the NFL. And yet they did nothing.

Maybe Martin was on his own because they all questioned his desire, or his blackness, or something else. Or maybe they just didn’t care enough about the Miami Dolphins.

170 comments
GuyLaiche
GuyLaiche

First of all I disagree with the use of the word,but there is a greater ignorance here how its acceptable when black people say it to one another,and not acceptable if whites or others say it, this is covering a sports issue, how about music do rappers get a pass when its used consistently in their genre,where is the outcry with the word usage, this is a double standard that doesn't help any body.P.S. I AM BLACK.

Toof
Toof

IMHO: One can be be bigoted of an opinion. One can be prejudiced for or against an opinion. One can only be a racist to others. One cannot be a racist of an opinion. The comments used by Incognito and others are, again in my opinion, are racist, bigoted and prejudiced. To all those journalist, I believe you are not using enough adjectives to describe the words used.

Make up you own mind. Here are definitions from dictionary.com

big·ot

a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.


rac·ist

1. a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that a certain human race is superior to any or all others.

2. of or like racists or racism: racist policies; racist attitudes.


rac·ism

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

RayHuggyBearYoung
RayHuggyBearYoung

I just want all of these "journalists" and pseudo writers to understand that using that word makes someone a bigot not a racist.  They might be prejudice but not racist.

Pico
Pico

I wish all people didn't use the N word. Unfortunately, that's not the world we live in. The entertainment industry has glamorized the word to make it a term of endearment between African-Americans, and the youth of this country is so detached from the historical struggle for civil rights that they don't see it as offensive as someone just ten to fifteen years older than them like a Kordell Stewart. This idea of Incognito being an 'honorary black' can be explained this way: the locker room is 85% African-American and many players throw the word around in front of the white players. A team can't have factions. Therefore the white players get a 'pass' when they use it. Most probably still don't because they're uncomfortable with it. Others have less awareness, no filter, or want to be accepted as a brother, and use it too. That's Incognito. Does that make him a racist? No, it's makes him an idiot. It's funny how Quentin Tarrantino gets a pass for writing it hundreds of times into his scripts and the media celebrates him as edgy and yet they are quick to run Incognito out of a job. This article comes close to getting it right but just falls short of doing so. Martin seems uncomfortable with this whole dynamic. That doesn't make him a bad guy. Quitting on his team does....however the real outcry should not be on racism or bullying, it should be on mental illness not being afforded the same respect as physical illness. Had he tore his ACL no one would say he quit on his team.

benbona75
benbona75

Use of slang words to describe blacks is not acceptable.  I don't understand why blacks would lower themselves to refer to each other with offensive slang.  Hopefully, Incognito will go incognito.  He will be replaced by someone soon and maybe the obnoxious "kidding" will end.  I have seen disasterous conclusions when Italians are referred to with slang terms by each other or,more disastrously, by an "outsider".   Black people should not tolerate being degraded by ANYONE.

Fedorable_BE
Fedorable_BE

Awesome!  

The fact that people are placing blame on a guy for not punching the leader of the team in the face is insane.  Clearly Incognito has a grip on the team, and if Martin were to do this, he would have alienated himself even more.

I doubt that Incognito had a plan to ruin Martin's career, and everything he said was out of pure hate.  But he clearly doesn't know the line between fraternity horseplay and harassment. 

I'm glad that someone who ins't white (and has a large medium to give their opinion) has come out and said that calling a black man, even in jest a "Nigg*r" is never ok.  Ever.

JasonBain
JasonBain

AS much as Incognito is to blame (and he is to blame), part of this lies with the organization. Whether it be coaches, management or players, somebody needed to put a stop to this. The real Irony is that Martin doesnt need the NFL, as being a Stanford grad, he is far more marketable than Incognito..

hmm, come to think of it, maybe Incognito was jealous of Martin being a Stanford grad

Robert18
Robert18

I cant believe its 2013 and we still talk race everyone is an individual and there is only one race the human one. Then there are those who dont acknowledge that and they are the ignorant ones.  I personally dont care where my relatives came from specifically because if you go far enough back they probably came from everywhere, so who cares be yourself and dont worry what people of the same or different skin tone are doing its only shade of skin i mean cmon.  words derived to depict hate and so are words to depict agroup of even if endearing if u wanna make words like that make them for good people and bad people cause color or "race" has no bearing on that grow up.

joepublic196350
joepublic196350

Martin needs to make a statement, and not through his attorney. Man up and say yes or no if he and incognito joked around. Stop hiding.  If u got your feelings hurt,  say that, if u pulled pranks on other rookies, say that. If he thinks it went to far, tell the guys, dont go hide.How are u going to sue a team or somebody if u participated in this routine to others? Whos Kordell Stewart?

MQBLW
MQBLW

Nice job, Peter. It's important to hear diverse perspectives on this issue. One thing is for sure, the name-calling (racial epithets) is intolerable and unacceptable. It's too bad that everyone doesn't feel that way.

gary41
gary41

Appreciate the racial nuances of language and how these things are used by various groups both black & white.  The matter of whether a fight should have broken out at some point is way over rated.  Incognito was an aberrant white athlete, apparently with a personality sufficient to blend into a black locker room that might have been atypical compared with most in the NFL.  Nonetheless the organization not only allowed this incident to occur, but actually promoted it.  Jeff Ireland's response, if correctly conveyed, left Martins agent no choice in resolving the issue.  Incognito will say he was the good soldier, doing in his own peculiar way, what he was told.    

Robert18
Robert18

I cant believe its 2013 and we still talk race everyone is an individual and there is only one race the human one. Then there are those who dont acknowledge that and they are the ignorant ones.  I personally dont care where my relatives came from specifically because if you go far enough back they probably came from everywhere, so who cares be yourself and dont worry what people of the same or different skin tone are doing its only shade of skin i mean cmon.  words derived to depict hate and so are words to depict agroup of even if endearing if u wanna make words like that make them for good people and bad people cause color or "race" has no bearing on that grow up.

HalverSmith
HalverSmith

Pete: Don't use the word that you're trying to help get people to not use. Just an idea.

lebanon_levi
lebanon_levi

How many honorary blacks are in the NFL?

bigstones11
bigstones11

You are an idiot who perpetuates the race issue by continuing to use it as the source of blame for every idiotic moron's moral failings.  Stand by your own accomplishments and abilities and stop using racism as an excuse for crappy people being crappy.  Martin was a weak man in a strong man's world who was too cowardly to route his complaints through the proper channels.  Incognito has and will continue to be one of the dirtiest, nastiest people in the NFL , it isn't the culture, its the world people.

Jon8
Jon8

Terra Incognito

The Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal is a stew of our cultural preoccupations.

By  Daniel Foster

The National Football League has a self-explanatory designation for injured players: “physically unable to perform.” The PUP list lets the players who are on it stay under contract, attend meetings, and use team training facilities while not counting toward the 53-man active roster. But last week, second-year offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins’ active squad under the same terms, for what is officially designated a “non-football injury” but would more sensibly be described as his entry into the “emotionally unable to perform” list.

At issue is what Martin’s recently hired lawyer — David Cornwell, who notoriously sprung Brewers slugger Ryan Braun (temporarily, it turns out) from a 50-game suspension by arguing that a positive PED test was tainted — called a season and a half of “harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing,” including “daily vulgar comments” about, among other topics, his race and his sister’s genitals, as well as a “malicious physical attack” by an unnamed teammate.

The ringleader of this organized bullying (if that’s an apt phrase, which I think it is not, but more on that presently) is supposed to be one Richie Incognito, a Volkswagen of a man and the unofficial leader of the Dolphins’ O-line before he was suspended indefinitely in the wake of Martin’s departure.

First, a word about the belligerents. Incognito is a Jersey-born mauler chosen in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. In the pros, he has routinely demonstrated above-average talent at a position — interior offensive line — where keeping talent is relatively cheap for franchises. Despite this, the Rams waived him in the middle of 2009, after the second game that season in which he was pulled for multiple personal fouls (this time, head-butting opponents) and an on-field shouting match with head coach Steve Spagnuolo.

It was part of a pattern for Incognito, who had started his college career as a Nebraska Cornhusker but withdrew from that school after three seasons that saw game ejections, multiple team suspensions, and a misdemeanor assault conviction. His transfer to the University of Oregon lasted all of a week, ending after he violated the terms of conduct he’d established with coaches there. The rap sheet sent Incognito, who possessed first-round talent and explosiveness, sinking down teams’ draft boards.

In the NFL, where talent too often trumps trouble, Incognito got a job quickly after his dismissal from St. Louis, as a mercenary rental for the Bills down the stretch. And when Buffalo, which had what amounted to a right of first refusal, failed to re-sign him during the offseason, he found what looked like a long-term home with the Dolphins, where he was apparently well liked by teammates despite cementing his reputation as the dirtiest player in the league.

Jon8
Jon8

Then there is Jonathan Martin. In contrast to the tattooed Incognito — who can be seen in a video raging, drunk and shirtless, through a bar in broad daylight — Martin came from three generations of Harvardians. These included his great-grandfather, one of twelve African Americans in the class of ’24; his grandfather and father, who went on to be respected academics; and his mother, a successful corporate lawyer. Martin’s idea of youthful rebellion was to break the Cambridge legacy and study classics at lowly Stanford. There he shined as a smart, athletic defender of Andrew Luck’s blindside. The sole knock on Martin coming out of college was that he was a finesse player, lacking elite size and toughness for the tackle position. But the Dolphins, who use a zone-blocking scheme that favors the nimble over the brute, liked what they saw and took him in the second round last year.

The troubles apparently started almost immediately, with Incognito, according to some reports, being told by coaches to “toughen up” Martin, and in any event recognizing him as a soft target. Incognito enlisted his fellow linemen to give Martin a rough go of it, joining in on the racially charged name-calling (Incognito calls Martin a “half-n*****” on a voicemail), the intimidation (hitting Martin up for 15 grand to fund a Vegas trip he didn’t attend), and the ostracizing (by some accounts, a stunt in which the line left a dining table as Martin sat down was the last straw).

Both Martin and Incognito remain Dolphins in name, but the smart money is that neither will ever play another snap for Miami. Their twisted relationship — Cornwell said Martin tried to befriend Incognito in an effort to get him to back off — and the subsequent revelations and recriminations have proven to be of more than passing interest to fans and non-fans alike. Perhaps that’s because the saga is a veritable stew of America’s current sociocultural preoccupations: namely, the crisis of masculinity, the menace of “bullying,” and the paradoxes of race.

Let’s take them in reverse order. The racial issue is tangential but instructive. Incognito’s deployment of the verbal napalm that is the N-word helped ossify his villain’s status in the public imagination. But peculiarly, teammates (including black teammates) have to a man defended Incognito from charges of bigotry, with one even going so far as to say the biracial Martin was considered by the team to be “less black” than the Caucasian Incognito:

”Richie is honorary,” one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”

Compare Incognito with wide receiver Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles, an equally lily-white player, and at one time as popular with black teammates, who was roundly condemned by them for using the N-word in a non-football context earlier this year. Running back LeSean McCoy went so far as to tell reporters the incident made him feel like he was “losing a friend.” An investigation of the distinctions that made a difference in these two cases would no doubt make a useful dissertation in African-American studies, and a guide for the perplexed in the Minotaur’s maze of racial discourse in 2013 America.

But this aggravating circumstance aside, the central question in the affair would seem to be: Was Jonathan Martin bullied by Richie Incognito and others? If you’ll forgive the remedial rhetorical trick: Merriam-Webster defines a “bully” as “a blustering browbeating person; especially one habitually cruel to others who are weaker” (emphasis in original). Incognito is by all accounts a browbeating blusterer, and worse. But it is the qualification that is characteristic of the bully: one who is habitually, relentlessly cruel, and cruel to those who are not in a position to fight back.

It is an open question whether the behavior of Incognito amounted to relentless cruelty. To be sure, saying and doing the things Incognito is alleged to have said and done would not fly in just about any profession in the world. But the NFL isn’t just any profession, and perhaps the most surprising feature of the unfolding story is that most of Incognito’s colleagues, from his teammates to the opponents who hate him most, reject the characterization of Incognito’s actions as bullying.

Here is Lydon Murtha, a Dolphin from 2009 to 2012, who played along the line with Incognito and Martin:

[Incognito] was a leader on the team, and he would get in your face if you were unprepared or playing poorly. The crap he would give Martin was no more than he gave anyone else, including me. Other players said the same things Incognito said to Martin, so you’d need to suspend the whole team if you suspend Incognito. . . . That’s where Incognito ran into a problem. Personally, I know when a guy can’t handle razzing. You can tell that some guys just aren’t built for it. Incognito doesn’t have that filter.

Murtha goes on to dismiss the Vegas and cafeteria incidents as overblown and out of context and says that the Dolphins coaches knew exactly what was going on and even encouraged it as a way to bring the “standoffish” Martin “out of his shell.”

Other players around the league focused on Martin’s failure to stand up for himself in the face of presumed abuse.

“Is Incognito wrong? Absolutely. He’s 100 percent wrong,” said Giants safety Antrel Rolle. “But at the same time, Jonathan Martin is a 6-4, 320-pound man. I mean, at some point and time you need to stand your ground as an individual. Am I saying go attack, go fight him? No. I think we all understand we can stand our ground without anything being physical.”

hamburger
hamburger

the n-word. either everyone is allowed to use, it or no one. simple. no exceptions to anyone. i would prefer option: no one uses it, period.

Tritonrider
Tritonrider

THANK YOU to MMQB!! Political Correctness has kept even the possibility of honest debate on this subject buried while the issues have continued to fester and get nastier. It's a scary commentary that these conversations could be had on national television in  shows like All in the Family and Good Times in the 1970s but the subject can't  even be mentioned except in one PC dictated way. There is NO discussion today and people who have even tried in some way have been immediately fired or disciplined in other ways. Hat's off to MMQB for allowing the discussion we desperately need to begin to happen!

Marty2
Marty2

HELLO!  Why is ANYBODY allowed to use the "N-words" while on "business hours?"  It's not unheard of for a coach/boss to simply ban the usage by all players because they know the ramifications of it being used.  (Example:  Herm Edwards.)  Instead of getting wrapped around the axle about who can say what in regards to racially loaded words, simply ban their usage.  I was in the Army for 20 years, it was generally not tolerated in uniform at all.

Beth3
Beth3

In middle school, there are mean girls who target bookish, brainy girls. Incognito is a mean girl wrapped in 350 pounds of muscle and fat.

Lawfish
Lawfish

liked slumming, but perhaps John Martin is not one of those. Perhaps he is revolted by the likes of those who can succeed In the NFL. He couldn't know that until he tried. Just because one is a high-level athlete doesn't mean you can park your taste at the door.

He may be better off at Goldman Sachs or in the State Department than with the Dolphins. Perhaps the argument to "man up" should be just to admit the NFL is not interesting, not attractive, not healthy, and not the only place one can make a good living.

Lawfish
Lawfish

learning good manners, reading serious literature, working hard not to emulate ghetto blacks may be revolted by the type of people who would find a Las Vegas strip club interesting?

People like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady may not have spent their childhoods being asked to adopt the manners and attitudes of the haute bourgeoise, or they may be more socially secure and for 100 million can put up with what goes on in an NFL locker room. The Kennedy's were clearly who likes

Lawfish
Lawfish

in other words, is it possible that this is a class-conflict with the perhaps delicious irony that the upper-middle class player is black, and the white trash player is having a hard time looking down on the African-American? Playing football at Stanford and playing football in the NFL must be as different as graduating from Annapolis is from finishing boot camp Parris Island. Is it not possible that some people who have spent their whole lives

Lawfish
Lawfish

Is it possible that this is not a racial problem or a courage problem, but perhaps a cultural problem? Of course I don't know these people, but it seems like one person is upper middle class while the other is apparently rather low class. One comes from an educated family (both parents lawyers) and is himself a Stanford graduate. The other is common, vulgar, tattooed,

Centennial
Centennial

The moment I heard that Jonathan Martin had walked out of the DOLPHINS complex, I knew "race" was at the heart of the matter. The racists posting on this thread and bleating "This has nothing to do with race" are fooling no one but themselves. What else that didn't involve physical violence could force a hulking offensive lineman to abandon his position and team?

However, I must say that Martin may have brought a lot of this on himself. Like many so-called mixed or biracial people, Martin thinks he can live in two worlds or would like to live in one world - the white one; neither of which will ever happen. For the sake of his mental health and personal dignity he needs to get real and learn to live in the black world because right or wrong, good or bad - that's how the world will always see him. 

I'm a 49 year old black man who's met his share of white racists and I've always found the best way to deal with them is to either stare them down or knock them down - with your intellect and dignity. Be aloof, patronizing, and blow up with deafening rage very occasionally and even the most devout racist will do one of two things: Never bother you again or completely hero worship you. It's a technique that has never failed me. Mr Martin failed to practice any of the former - hence the almighty mess in Miami.

To stand there and allow a patently inferior human being like Incognito to call him those names and "skin teet" (you Jamaicans know what I mean) with him while he's doing it shows that Martin is a man who needs to man up and learn to have some real pride in his racial heritage. That doesn't let Incognito off the hook however. He's a piece of crap that needs to be kicked out of the NFL - forever.

zkinter36
zkinter36

I think it is ridiculous to make this a race issue.  The acceptability of the use of the N word is clearly something that needs to be regulated by black people, and in this situation the majority of the black people involved were okay with it's usage by a white guy.  As a white person, it is not my place to judge the usage of the word.  I do find it disturbing that the black community so openly uses a word that essentially places themselves in a "lower" position.  Hopefully at some point in time relevant leaders in the black community will step up and demand more than the phony archetypes presented by professional rappers and athletes. 

This is an issue of locker room dynamics and what is acceptable in the work place.  Having been around this type of environment on a regular basis, I understand the psychological warfare that goes on in a football locker room environment.  In many situations, it is not the place for someone who is sensitive or intellectual...  Which is a shame.  You are dealing with a high school "Lord of the Flies" mentality that is a reflection of what these individuals do on a daily basis... Beat the hell out of each other.  From first hand experience, this mentality manifests at the highest level with offensive linemen.  They are the fat kids in elementary school who got made fun of all the time.  They are the ones who get no credit for doing the most important things in a football game.  They are the ones who operate in the most intertwined group... Like five fingers on a hand.  They really are like a gang, and they usually have a strict code or order.  Anyone who has been around a high level football team can attest to this.  Culturally speaking, a lot of males show their affection to their friends by messing with them on a psychological level.  That is what a lot of men do.  It's easy for outsiders to criticize this.  Especially dudes whose wives run their lives... LOL...  SMH...  "How appalling"...  LOL.  In reality, it is something that GM's and Head Coaches should be much more aware of.  It is normal human behavior that needs to be regulated on, and like with most situations humans are not capable of self regulating in an appropriate manner.  When I heard Bill Polian speak on this, it made me realize that some organizations get it and some really don't.  It is much better to fill your locker room with college educated good guys, than with ignorant bad guys.  When a guy like Richie Incognito is running your locker room, you really need to look at the "TEAM" that you have assembled.

yobogo
yobogo

You can debate the issue from all sides, which I've had, but overall, this is by far the best article I have read so far on the issue, by probably the most qualified person to write about it.

Bob35
Bob35

This is a great article, really very good.  Well done. 

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

Wow, seriously?  This is all about racial feelings now?  Are you kidding?  The real problem has NOTHING to do with that.  It is about harassment and juvenile bullying behavior.  That is the most important part of this story.  How a "code" can exist that is born in juvenile delinquent experiences being perpetrated by adults in a work environment.  Not a skinhead attacking blacks with racist terms of hatred.  

Talking about this as though the sensitivities of black people are so fragile that every mention of that word makes that issue about that word and that word alone, is a HUGE reason most people in the country have a very hard time taking black people's cries of racism seriously.  Life is not all about you and your sensitivities.  

Most people with any intellectual honesty will back every single black person that takes issue with racial hatred and the use of that word in such manner.  That is not the case here, so drop it.  Don't be a fool and diminish the issue of racial hatred by misplacing your ire for the word and it's use. 

By the way, at the same time you might want to get a clue as to the reality that this is exactly why the youth rebel against this overly sensitive crying nature of others and use the word all the time themselves.  It desensitizes them to it, so it isn't something that will get them to be "up in arms" being the fool every time they hear it. 

It is very interesting that you even tell the story of how you realized your violent reaction to the use of the word really was foolish.  Maybe the kids are on to something.  You know?

Fedorable_BE
Fedorable_BE

@joepublic196350 did you even read what Klemko wrote?  The culture of the locker room in Miami was that Richie Incognito was the boss.  He planned the meetings, and he called the shots.  

So from day 1, this veteran was able to throw around racial slurs without consequence, because he was the leader. That is where the Dolphins are at fault.  The team shouldn't have allowed a guy like him, who clearly doesn't know where the line is, to run the locker room.  And you expect a rookie to come in a stand up to him?  

That is great in theory, but in reality, life isn't always as easy as standing up the bully and the bully instantly stops.  

desicortez1
desicortez1

@ChrisCastleman great advice, since it was White people who bullied/waged genocide on REd/Black & Brown people to steal the land and establish an empire on the backs of oters . . ..

Tritonrider
Tritonrider

@Jon8  Thanks for that. Goes right to a comment someone, can't remember who right now made when talking about the "Is RG3 "black enough" mess. They commented that Rob Parker's comments were the conversation they were all having down at the barbershop, but Rob should've never said it on tv. I just went WHOA when I heard that. We get Bill Cosby, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, the President, etc...portrayed in the media as being the "real" faces of the African American community, but then we have the rap/thug under culture which is said, again in the MSM, to be marginal and not representative. We've had multiple attacks on educated, articulate, successful African Americans as NOT being "black". Isn't that pretty damned racist? How big is this culture? We're pretty aware of the "white" morons because the MSM play up the ignorant/redneck/moron characters all over the place, and I'm not saying that isn't accurate, but lots of folks consider that to be stereotyping and offensive but they aren't minorities so on it goes. We can't even begin to discuss the issues around race without bringing all the most ignorant of all the "races" and their activities and culture out into the open for discussion. Someone being offended would be a VERY small price to pay to shine the light of day on this ignorance, deal with a lot of it, and advance towards a society where people are just people. Different but equal.

DraaForbes
DraaForbes

@hamburger Honestly, as a white man, I see no problem with blacks using the n-word with each other just like I'd have no problems with my white friends using the words Cracker or Honkey toward me. In fact, many of them have used those words in jest towards me and it's just laughed off. 

There's a context when using such words. That said, it would certainly cross a line if a black man used them and directed them at me. That wouldn't be unacceptable imo. Much the same way a white man using the n-word toward a black man wouldn't be tolerated by me either. Sometimes it's a cultural issue and must be view in the proper context when used.

DraaForbes
DraaForbes

@Tritonrider It's not political correctness to want whites to not use those words when directed towards blacks. And if it means getting people to stop using them by claiming they're not PC then I'm all for it. It really seems that some people want to blame PC for not allowing them to be racist (not you but in general). And it might be different if the n-word wasn't once used to describe black people in a negative way. Not allowing it to be said isn't PC, that's common sense. Besides, anybody that believe it's OK to use those words, and not be black when doing so, only shows just how ignorant people can be (again, not you but in general). 

Beth3
Beth3

@Lawfish I agree that class is at least as important here as race. Plus, Martin isn't playing his role. He's well-educated. He's smart. He has options beyond a sport that pays him for brute force. Incognito has no other options. He's lived three decades, but has the heart of a 14-year old mean girl, which is ironic, since some people are telling Martin to man up.

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@Centennial

 "I knew "race" was at the heart of the matter"

Great default reaction. Wonder who the racist is. By the way whites may be the minority in football, if not it must be very close.

.

RodneyRay
RodneyRay

@desicortez1 I guess you fail to realize that it was black African tribes that enslaved their own people when they captured the enemy, and started the slave trade by selling them to traders. And yes, white people bullied and killed native American Indians to steal their lands, but whites didn't do that to black/brown people. Get your facts straight.

EasyGoer
EasyGoer

@DraaForbes @hamburger I knew a white Southerner who said the word 'cracker' was perfectly OK to use on him but I told him it was offensive and would never call any white person what I thought was a racial slur. Different people have different views on things like this. I wasn't born in America and in my birth country, the n-word is almost never used and race is rarely discussed. When I came to America at the age of seven, the blacks in my neighborhood used it freely and even when speaking about persons from all ethnic groups. As an adult, I don't use the word but many people I hang out with do, and they use it in front of anyone, which I do not like. That word has no place in any conversation but it will never go away because people refuse to let it die a well-deserved death.

Tritonrider
Tritonrider

We're not talking just the usage of that word. We're talking about the whole subject and the fact that there has been little to no real discussion in decades because someone is offended and we can't let that happen. The whole issue is going to be touchy, offensive to some, and really difficult to deal with truthfully. Contrary to popular media there are African American, Hispanic, Asian, and members of other races who are racist. If you point that out it makes you racist in today's PC culture and you are attacked. Every race has it's ignorant idiots and they ALL need to be dealt with in the open. ALL racial attitudes need to be discussed openly no matter who gets offended if we are going to move the bar forward. Forcing it underground by banning words doesn't stop racism. It allows it to fester and get worse out of sight. The brilliance in the 1st Amendment protecting unpopular speech was to allow that speech to be public and to be dealt with. Silencing offensive speech silences anything not currently PC. 50 years ago, in many places in the US speaking up for civil rights wasn't PC and was brutally oppressed. Seen University speech codes today? Same concept different issues. Why could we have these discussions on television 40 years ago and deal with the issues, and we came a long way but you can't even begin to go near those discussions today? Again REALLY brave step, and incredibly needed for SI to open this discussion up. Sad they had to do a HUGE disclaimer first.

coy_combs
coy_combs

@RodneyRay @desicortez1 Also when we did free them and send them back to Monrovia. They turned around and enslaved their own again. But that doesn't get our forefathers off the hook for what they did.

Centennial
Centennial

@BigSchtick @Centennial  

No, it's not always about race - but this particular matter is - capice? Read my post again, all of it, carefully.

Centennial
Centennial

@BigSchtick @Centennial  

Forty nine years of living on Earth as a black man more than qualifies me to "pull the race card." Do you think I can't sense the mealy-mouthed racism emanating from you right now?  Do you think I'm as stupid as you are? And did you even read my post? Can you read?

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@Centennial 

Your "instant"" reaction that this was about race, without any real facts. In fact nobody has the real facts as of this day. Incognito has a long history of berating everyone regardless of color.

I just wonder why some are so quick to pull out a race card. That's all.

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