Less than a week after Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team because of alleged bullying in the locker room, the Dolphins have suspended fellow lineman Richie Incognito indefinitely for targeting Martin with racial slurs and other abuse.
The Dolphins, who initially defended Incognito in a statement Sunday morning, decided to suspend him late Sunday after Martin’s family complained to the team about racial and other abuse against the second-year player. ESPN confirmed Monday that Incognito had sent voice messages and text messages to Martin that included death threats and racial slurs.
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth,” Incognito said in one of the messages, sent in April, according to ESPN. “[I'm going to] slap your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Incognito left other messages with a similar tone that referred to Martin as a “p—y” and by other demeaning terms.
Why Martin was targeted with abuse is unclear, though reports have attributed it to common rookie hazing gone wrong. Martin, according to reports, was pressured to provide Incognito and other members of the Dolphins team with $15,000 for an offseason trip to Las Vegas that he did not attend. The Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley reported Sunday that Dolphins veterans have forced rookies to pay for team meals at costs in excess of $30,000. Having rookies pay for team meals is a common form of rookie hazing, though Beasley suggested that it has become a “huge issue” among Dolphins players because of the costs. Martin’s situation, meanwhile, goes above and beyond the normal scope of rookie treatment, especially since he’s no longer a first-year player.
It appears Miami did little to keep the situation from spiraling out of control, or at least failed to create an atmosphere where Martin felt comfortable speaking out about it. According to NFL.com’s Albert Breer, Martin talked to head coach Joe Philbin about the problems in the spring, but the organization was under the impression the issues had ceased. Martin reportedly feared retribution from Incognito, who serves on the team’s six-man players leadership council, and thus did not file a complaint with the team or the NFL Players Association.
“We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time,” the Dolphins said in announcing Incognito’s suspension. “As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter.”
Coaches, like Philbin, typically aren’t in the locker room where they could overhear such abuse taking place, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to prevent it from happening, former NFL player and head coach Herm Edwards said on ESPN’s SportsCenter Monday morning.
“The locker room is the players’ home, but you create the working environment,” Edwards, now an ESPN analyst, said of the coach’s role. “You have to be sure that you’re well-aware of what’s going on in that locker room.”
The NFL announced Sunday that it would launch a formal review of the abuse directed toward Martin. The NFL Players Association has said it would monitor the situation.