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How Richie Incognito will change football forever

Sports Editor's opinion on the scandal facing the NFL

Sports Editor

Published: Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 14:01

Ever since concussions started to become recognized as a serious issue in sports, specifically football, talk began to surface surrounding what it means to play football and the toughness that comes with it. Recently, another sensitive issue has arisen in the NFL, an issue of hazing with Dolphins offensive lineman and one time brief Nebraska Husker, Richie Incognito.

Football, since its invention, has been about one main thing - masculinity. The toughness associated with being a man.

Allegations against Incognito involve him harassing younger, two-year-player and co-offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and include him leaving vulgar voicemails on his phone, calling him a “half n*****” and saying he’s going to ‘****’ in his mouth. Along with other things, but one gets the message.

Martin suffered what is being called a “mental breakdown” and left the team last week team.

What Incognito has done is inexcusable and wrong, but what prompted such behavior in the NFL and what’s behind Martin’s response to it?
Bullying, hazing and racism all go beyond sports, but people from the outside who aren’t immersed in such an intense culture might not understand that such communication is business as usual for these guys.

Incognito calls his relationship and interaction with Martin a “friendship” despite saying the things he said.

Part of me believes that Incognito himself thinks that his intentions have never been bad but just that he went slightly too far.

The big question mark in this story is that Jonathan Martin himself has not even spoken out technically, there are no quotes exactly, just speculated here-say.

Former players who are on the popular and acclaimed NFL pregame show on Fox talked about the culture and brotherhood that it has. Most of them said they missed it.

In particular, Michael Strahan on the show mentioned his infamous ‘tooth gap’ and the amount of flack he has taken from it. You could sense that Strahan missed it, but Strahan stressed just how unacceptable the use of derogatory terms was.

So really, the question is if Incognito hadn’t dropped an N-bomb would everyone have turned a blind eye to this situation?
Howie Long also provided insight on the same segment, calling Incognito “ignorant to the sound of his own voice.”

Long also believes that the NFL locker room culture will now be thrown out the window. There will be no more making rookies buy expensive dinners, no more forcing them to carry pads after practice.

So it looks like Incognito may have dramatically changed the internal workings of the NFL. So let’s rewind back to Incognito and Martin’s so-called friendship?
According to Fox’s Jay Glazer,a text from Martin to Incognito Martin says “I blame the culture” adding in his own words that he doesn’t blame Incognito. This text was just one of over 11,000 text messages (all obtained by Fox) that the two exchanged in the past two years. Do two people who despise each other usually have such frequent interaction? Something isn’t adding up.

I think Incognito is a scumbag and that stems from other things in his past, including molestation charges. However, part of me doesn’t want to peg him as a bully or hazer after hearing a side of the story and not knowing what happens inside other locker rooms in the NFL.

Like Strahan said earlier, these guys communicate and express themselves through vulgarity. Frankly, most people who one time or another have been in football would have no issue with his comments, minus the use of the n-word.

Was the n-word use wrong? Absolutely, but do we know enough about these two guys relationship, which has been described by Incognito as one of his “best friends” to know the degree of offense he caused? No. Do we as outsiders of the NFL know how these guys talk with each other both in a friendly manner and when things get heated? No.

This is not the first time that people have been appalled when the curtain of pro-sports has been pulled to see the behind the scenes reality. These guys are dirty, they’re not proper, they are football players.

In fact, I wouldn’t doubt that similar exchanges occur in the business world of America.

Talking smack is something men do, and, depending on your values and beliefs, the degree of obscenity may vary. Whether it’s right or wrong in your opinion to mess with and “haze” a rookie, you must consider the culture and lifestyle of the NFL and its athletes and, to a certain extent, men in general.

Whether or not you disagree with profanity, hazing rookies in sports, or any of the other activities Incognito engaged in, just note that the world inside the NFL locker room is not for the faint of heart.

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