The Miami Dolphins scandal concerning the treatment of Jonathan Martin by veteran player Richie Incognito is the major story currently in the sports world.
Washington Post writer Kent Babb interviewed Washington players on the locker room culture of the NFL, which includes this account:
Washington defensive lineman Kedric Golston, an eight-year veteran, said he was made to pick up breakfast sandwiches for teammates during his rookie year, and he and two others split a $2,500 dinner bill for defensive line teammates. The idea suggests a welcome-to-the-NFL moment, but Golston said the way a youngster reacts can offer hints at his commitment to teammates.
“To see where a person’s mind-set is as far as his team philosophy, or you can be really trying to make him look silly. That’s where I think the line is drawn,” said Golston, adding that later in his rookie season, 2006, veteran players repaid the newcomers by springing for a far larger dinner tab.
The Dolphins’ ordeal seemed to be ongoing, with some players refusing to ease pressure on newcomers, no matter how agreeable they were. The Miami Herald cited a source who described a culture in which veterans continually demanded money from younger players, with intimidation or threats implied if the youngster refused. In Incognito’s alleged profanity- and slur-laced voice mails, he threatened to slap Martin’s mother and “kill” his 24-year-old teammate, calling him “still a rookie".
The suggestion was then made in the article that one reason the Dolphins situation went so far, is that the coaches and player leadership did not step in. Veteran linebacker London Fletcher said:
“What seemed like was going on there was beyond hazing, beyond your normal rookie-type deals,” Fletcher said. “So I’m real disappointed in the leadership in the locker room down there in Miami. . . . I know Jonathan Martin didn’t feel comfortable enough to go to any of the guys because either you’re encouraging it or you’re just turning a blind eye and allowing the guy to get treated like he was getting treated.”
Tim Keown of ESPN also concludes that the Dolphins' hierarchy is responsible for its locker room culture. But he also suggests that the mind-set of the NFL is that it is up to a player to personally confront his bully, rather than for anyone to intervene on his behalf. And that's a problem:
"Even now, even after the extent of Incognito's viciousness has been revealed through voice mails and texts to Martin, there are NFL personnel people telling reporters, like Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, that it's a man's game and Martin failed to handle it like a man. According to these unnamed men, Martin should have manned up and handled the situation face-to-face, with his fists if necessary.
You know -- like a man.
Seriously, though, did these men's men read the things Incognito reportedly said to Martin? Don't we encourage people not to deal with the deranged, to let the professionals handle it? Does anyone believe Incognito would be cowed by a confrontation?
To blame Martin is to ignore reality and uphold the twisted norms of the misguided subculture that allowed this type of environment to persist and -- dare we say -- thrive."
(This was first posted on The Lead in The Episcopal Cafe)