First it was Michael Vick. Then along came Riley Cooper. Now we have Richie Incognito.
I know Roger Goodell has been labeled as a sheriff in the wild, wild west to some for his way of doling out punishments.
But apparently, he needs to go in a few notches on his law belt.
When the Michael Vick dog fighting case came about in 2007, it was arguably one of the most abhorrent things a player has ever done off the field. He served 21 months in jail for his role in a five-year dog fighting ring. Vick was able to get a starting job back but his public persona has been severly dented.
Then along came Riley Cooper. The loudmouth Eagles receiver who threw N-bombs at a Kenny Chesney concert was rightly vilified for putting the country back 50-60 years. Players from around the league, which is predominantly African American, still haven’t been able to forgive a guy that spouted off and despite apologizing until he was blue in the face, Cooper could potentially still harbor those feelings deep inside.
And now we’ve got Incognito. Labeling him as a bully is a disservice to bullies. He is a calculated emotional killer that preys on the weak. Judging from the texts and voicemails where he called Jonathan Martin racial epithets and even mentioned that he would kill him, Incognito is worse than the first two guys. I mean, Incognito forced Martin to chip in $15,000 to finance a trip to Las Vegas – a trip that Martin wasn’t even attending. So, in addition to making your fellow offensive lineman’s life a living hell thanks to a verbal assault, you’ve entered into the world of extortion.
The problem is, since the NFL is a macho sport based upon brute strength, most people just shrug their shoulders when they see this type of thing. Many Dolphins players really didn’t notice anything because the meat and potatoes of what was going on they didn’t see or hear. Incognito called out Martin in the locker room but it wasn’t anything that people wouldn’t consider out of the norm for locker room chatter.
I don’t have a problem with hazing, as long as the people handing out the hazing know and understand the line. Shaving someone’s hair, making them bring in doughnuts for a month or even forcing them to dress up in costume for a long flight are all pretty tame. Constantly needling someone by attacking the person, his wife and other areas of his personal life are just wrong.
Brett Favre wasn’t particularly fond of Aaron Rodgers when he came on board in 2005. Yet he wasn’t throwing personal attacks at him or clogging his voicemail and text inbox with racial attacks and saying he’d kill him.
As much as I hate to say this, it looks like this is going to be worse for Martin. If he tries to come back to the Dolphins, many players will approach him gingerly for fear of a percieved joke going haywire or wonder if his perceived “softness” will continue to be a problem. If he goes to another team, how many players in that locker room are going to be willing to trust him?
This is where Goodell steps in. He needs to squash this immediately. He’s not naïve to think that this is an isolated case. There are countless teams, high school to pro that have seen hazing go way too far.
Goodell needs to make Incognito understand that even though a coach apparently told him to toughen Martin up, savage behavior like this will not be tolerated. I also don’t care if a few teammates called Incognito an “honorary black man.” All that means is if they hear Incognito say an N-bomb, they will look the other way.
Especially in this age of knee-jerk vengeance, people need to be more understanding to the emotional state of others. I’m glad it didn’t happen, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that when Martin left the team, he returned with a gun to prove a point.
Perhaps this is a time to give an introspective look at Incognito and see why he is so insecure. Bullies tend to use attacking others as a way of masking their own fears and emotions. So until that mystery is solved, it’s only a matter of time before Incognito preys on his next target.
Goodell needs to make an example of Incognito. By coming down extremely hard now, he should put out any remaining embers of hazing that cross the line.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn