Using a current controversial player situation involving Richie Incognito, I intend to shed light on a double standard in the NFL…
It should not come down to NFL special investigator Ted Wells’ report for the public to realize Richie Incognito is a bully who took harassment to a new level. Days leading up to the report, NFL insiders, and people close to the league fully anticipated Incognito playing on an NFL roster next season. However, following the Wells Report it is now the complete opposite; but what did we learn about Incognito that was not already known to the public?
Richie Incognito has a troubled past with football, receiving multiple suspensions at the University of Nebraska for fighting and violating team rules. After transferring to the University of Oregon, they dismissed him after a week because he failed to complete his required anger management course. Sideline confrontations and the on-field incidents filled the four seasons he spent with the St. Louis Rams, ultimately resulting in his release from the team over halfway through the 2009 season. No coincidence that it was the same season NFL players voted him dirtiest player in the league via the Sporting News poll.
In 2010, Incognito found a home with Miami Dolphins with a one-year contract. His performance earned him a three-year deal in the offseason, where he played until his indefinite suspension on Nov. 4.
On the other end, you have Jonathan Martin. Coaches characterize Martin as a ‘soft’ or ‘sensitive’ player during his Stanford years and early stages of his professional career. What bothers me in Martin’s case is this; you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Martin’s teammates were stupefied by his departure from the team and his reasons for doing so. Martin showed no waver to jokes and no action, neither verbal nor physical, to tormenting; instead, he went along with it. After reading all forty-eight pages of the text message exchange between Martin and Incognito from Oct. 2012 and Nov. 2013, among other things, it is clear that Martin masked indication of feeling bullied or harassed.
An important takeaway is that to this day, no current Dolphin player has negatively spoke about Richie Incognito as a teammate. Veteran and fellow Dolphins lineman, Bryant McKinnie, spoke recently that he believed Martin handled the situation the wrong way. McKinnie is not in the minority among his teammates with his perspective.
Incognito had incidents with opposing teams, but on the field he had the back of his teammates, including Martin. Incognito crossed the line, but he viewed Martin as one of his best friends. The rhetoric and persistent text message conversations between them support that notion. Incognito deserves a chance to play on a team next season, if his skills are strong enough to compete at the NFL level.
If he does not find employment, here is the NFL double standard:
Michael Vick spent time in prison for operating a dog-fighting ring (known to exist for at least five years), yet easily finds employment in the NFL after spending 19 months in prison, and 4 months in house arrest. They indicted Jamal Lewis on federal drug charges with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. After spending 4 months in prison, and a two game suspension by the NFL, he returned to action. Plaxico Burress spent 20 months in jail for felony gun charges (he shot himself!) and returned to the league following the season after his parole.
The best example bar none is Bill Romanowksi. Here is a guy who had been suspended multiple times in his career for on and off-field incidents. He fought with opposing players and teammates. Here are a few notable ones:
- 1995: kicking Arizona Cardinals fullback Larry Centers in the head
- 1997: helmet-to-helmet hit on Carolina Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins that broke his jaw and spat in the face of San Francisco 49er’s wide receiver J.J. Stokes
- 2003: attacked and punched his Oakland Raiders teammate, tight end Marcus Williams, which crushed his eye socket and ended his career!!!
Not to belittle the significance of bullying, but if felons and a drug dealer continued an NFL career with their incidents, then Richie Incognito should be able to do the same. Romanowksi’s behavior makes Incognito look like an angel!
Incognito will not receive prison time nor a suspension from his bullying scandal. Lost in the scandal, was the offensive line coach and other Dolphins lineman named in the Wells Report for bullying Martin. They seem to have a free pass by the media and NFL analysts.
The bottom line is this; if Richie Incognito does not play for another team next season, for any reason other than playing capabilities, the NFL cannot be taken seriously for their ineptitude in guiding a fair moral compass.