TOJ – Sidelines Episode 1: Bullying & Incognito


In this new series from TOJ, we will provide an opinion on an off the field issue taking place in the NFL. These opinions are from the individual authors and not Turn On The Jets as a site. The game we all love is played inside the sidelines 100 yards at a time, but the men standing on the sidelines and their actions are just as important. If there are any topics you’d like to read about from us, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments. Welcome to Sidelines.

In this age of social media and social networking, the gift and the curse is that you get everyone’s opinions in 140 characters or less right away. Once the facts start pouring in, you’re able to then see people openly backtrack or go full steam ahead because their initial thoughts have now become fact. Twitter, especially, is the world’s largest open mic. It’s you in an empty room with the entire world observing you from above.

You saw the power of Twitter, and social media, once again when news broke that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito had bullied fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. Incognito, known to all New York Jets fans everywhere, has had a reputation as a “dirty player” for the last 11 years and teammates have said that Incognito’s the kind of guy you want on your team but would hate him if he was on another team. As the story has unfolded, more layers have been peeled back. When the story was first released, Incognito took to the same social media weapon that would later release his voicemails and threats to Martin to defend himself and demand that his name be cleared. Adam Schefter then used Twitter to defend himself against Incognito by releasing transcripts of the voicemails Incognito left Martin.

Now, its being alleged that Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland (the same one who asked Dez Bryant during the draft combine if his Mother was a prostitute) told Martin’s agent that Martin should fight Incognito in order to deal with the bullying and that it was Coach Philbin that told Incognito to toughen Martin up.

Today, a former Miami Dolphin offensive lineman spoke to the Monday Morning Quarterback and defended Incognito’s character while stating that Martin was never bullied. On social networks everywhere, each of these different layers generated different reactions. Some of the ones I read stated that “you have to toughen up the weakest link” while others stated that “even if this was the norm, it wasn’t normal to Martin.” One person even said that “Martin’s soft cause he’s from the University of Stanford” like Richard Sherman didn’t go to Stanford too. People humorously wondered if Incognito was spending time with Riley Cooper when the TMZ video of Incognito calling Martin the “n” word surfaced, and Incognito was now labeled a bigot and a racist.

Some people tweeted that Incognito was an honorary black guy. Then, the Dolphins paraded Tyson Clabo, Ryan Tannehill, and Brian Hartline before cameras to defend Incognito and Martin’s friendship and try to normalize what went on in the Dolphins locker room. The words “it goes on in every locker room” and “Martin should’ve kept that in house” and “Martin and Richie were best friends” swept the bottom line of ESPN. Yet, the one person we haven’t heard from is the victim of what could quite possibly be one of the biggest oversights by a coach in recent memory. Martin has reportedly checked into a hospital in California to deal with the trauma he experienced at the hands of Incognito. What does it all mean?

For starters, thanks to the very same social media that has been at the epicenter of this entire story bullying has increased over the last 10 years. A recent study showed that 42% of youth have been bullied while online. People say things to each other on social media that they may never think to say in person. Second, an old school mentality still permeates through society that real men don’t cry and that you’re not a real man unless you have thick skin and can use your fists to defend yourself.

Some General Managers called Jonathan Martin a coward for dealing with this situation the way he has thus far. Others stated how this younger “Glee” generation won’t survive in this world until they learn how to defend themselves how society believes they should. Very few have mentioned how bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.

We spend so much time trying to tear each other down with racial slurs, homophobic comments, and unprovoked threats and then wonder why so many young people commit suicide. If Jonathan Martin commits suicide, the same social networks that outed Incognito as a bigot will criticize Martin for “being a coward.” Instead of spending so much time discussing what led Incognito to think it was OK to utter a racial slur or what stopped Martin from actually asking the Dolphins coaches to intervene, why don’t we ask ourselves why our society makes these things possible? Instead of trying to build up who you have perceived as the weakest link, why not improve yourself so there is no weakest link in your circle.? You are the company you keep.

See you on the sidelines next time Jet fans.

  • Eddie

    This is exactly what needed to be said. Thank you for putting it out there. I’ve been disappointed with the knee jerk machismo responses

  • KAsh

    Why our society makes these things possible? What things? Bullying, misery, bad feelings, and suicide? Yeah, society is at fault for that. Sure.

    Oh, and if you improve yourself, don’t you just accentuate the weakest link?

    I have a problem with what Incognito, the Dolphins’s offensive line, coaches, and anyone else involved did. But it is not the problem most people are focusing on. In the end, you have to work with Martin – he is no good to you off the field, hidden away in therapy in nowheresville – so what are you doing taking this to the point where he abandons the team? I hated that MMQB article because it was downright ignorant. “These things happen everywhere.” But not to this extent. “Martin was not tough enough.” If Martin was not responding to the approach his coaches and teammates took, what made them think doubling down was the right call? “It was just a prank.” We are obviously not hearing the full story. The table story is a drop in the bucket, offered up as the only confirmed act we know of.

    What irritated me most of all was the insinuation that Martin is supposed to be the one to come out and open up to the group. It is a very American, we’re-all-happy-and-friendly-and-no-one-has-secrets mentality. “Martin was the black sheep, the odd one out, when we are legion, and the minority is always wrong.” There are two sides to this story: the people that think Martin should have been part of the team and the people that think he should not have been excluded. In case you did not catch that, they express the very same opinions.

    As a quick recap of all sides of this argument: bullying is wrong and no bullying went on here. Incognito is a bigot racist that was openly embraced by his teammates of color. This should have been stopped even though nothing went on. Nobody really wants to hear about this, except the public that loves gossip and scandal.

    Now, for a different opinion, just what is the problem with bullying? Can anyone define what constitutes it? Bullying causes bad feelings. We, Americans, now believe that we are entitled to happiness, so anything that causes bad feelings is bad. Ergo, bullying is bad. “No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.”

    But bullying (and bad feelings and suicide) have existed since time immemorial. The males that survive are bullies; the ones that are bullied die out. Bullies have higher self-esteem and higher overall health. They are more likely to succeed in life (as they usually have no illusions about what it really takes to get ahead). Stagnation, decline, and collapse can be linked to the disappearance of the bullying spirit and its associated alpha males.

    Meanwhile, bullying and its effects produce some of the heights of human culture. Misery and despair are at the bottom of all great art. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Hamlet, Macbeth, Dostoevsky’s the Underground Man all come from the negative aspects of life. Even the lighter works of art would not work without darkness in the background. Watch reruns of Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny and they are violent, cruel, and unfair. “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” If a football player never lost, never struggled, would he have the motivation to improve, to work on his technique or on reading the play? “Hell is other people.” We all live “bullying” each other every day of our lives: that is the cost of living in society. People do not coordinate naturally, so there always has to be give and take and there is no easier way to simplify such processes than bullying. That is why bullying always has and always will exist.

    I will reiterate. The Martin-Incognito affair went too far. Martin is no good to anyone in a hospital and Incognito is no good to anyone suspended. Furthermore, you do not want to complicate matters off the field for someone struggling on the field. But otherwise, no great tragedy occured here.

  • Dalbin Osorio

    @Eddie: Thanks for reading man, much appreciated.

    @Kash: Thanks for reading man. Much appreciated. My question was more why society makes it ok for people to prematurely be labeled bigots, racists, cowards, and otherwise without any of the facts coming out. I do think there is a big difference between being motivated because you lose at something and being motivated to change because your peers don’t accept who you are. Martin should’ve been built up. Also, you can read this article by the time all the truth comes out and it will probably seem premature.

  • mikeM

    Philbin ordered the Code Red (A Few Good Men). Incognito was just following orders.

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  • BubbaGump

    Man, what a circus going on down there in Miami…

  • Mark Phelan

    Kash makes good points.

  • Frank Antonelli

    @mikem. Very nice!

    Philbin ordered the Code Red (A Few Good Men). Incognito was just following orders.

    You could have added. The Dolphins can’t handle the truth!