November 6, 2013

Commentary: No disguising players like Incognito

The Miami Dolphin’s alleged treatment of a teammate goes way beyond bullying.

By Sally Jenkins
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 image made from video made by WSVN-TV in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Miami Dolphin player Richie Incognito is interviewed near his home. The troubled, troubling relationship between two Miami Dolphin linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito took an ominous turn Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 with fresh revelations: Incognito sent text messages to his teammate that were racist and threatening, two people familiar with the situation said.(AP Photo/WSVN-TV)

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The Players Association has worked for years to build solidarity and persuade older players to teach younger ones how to take care of themselves and their money, given the rate at which their health is shattered.

Union head DeMaurice Smith has said, “All players have a responsibility to each other.” The league executive office has done the same under vice president Troy Vincent, who has worked exhaustively on “player engagement” programs that preach mentorship and a sense of mutual responsibility.

Incognito’s abuse of a talented young player, a teammate who had to stand side by side with him every day, must be equally appalling to both sides, as must be the fact he was actually a team leader and his attitude appeared to be catching.

The saddest part of all? Rookies under the last collective bargaining agreement actually surrendered millions of dollars in income to support older players. Jonathan Martin was already paying Incognito without a shakedown. Yet no one on the Dolphins’ roster seems to recognize that.

Recently fourth-year Miami player Jared Odrick tweeted a picture of a Henry VIII-sized banquet table loaded with food, and wrote, “Everything tastes better when a rookie pays for it.” In an interview with the Herald, one young Dolphin player anonymously claimed he is literally going broke as a result of the system Dolphin vets called a “virgin tax,” because he felt unable to say “no” to demands for payment from guys such as Incognito.

Incognito and his ilk are not the NFL’s Representative Men – you hope. In any other profession, someone who threatened and extorted a co-worker would be unemployable.

The league is full of good guys and good teammates who play football with exquisite self-control, including the half-dozen players who have signed on to nationwide anti-bullying campaigns.

If anyone is representative of the league’s best side, it’s Martin, who had the strength to walk away, even knowing what people might say. The league wants and needs to foster more men like Martin – and a good way to do it is by throwing the book at Incognito.

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