This past weekend was, to say the least, an interesting week for the world of football. A snap sent sailing over the head of an MVP quarterback marked the point at which the most prolific offense in the history of the game began to crumble. Speaking of crumbling, Jonathan Martin’s chances at holding the public’s sympathy did the same when the complete text message history between him and Richie Incognito was leaked to the public late Monday night. Whoops.
When the Richie Incognito harassment story broke the media jumped all over it. People were outraged to hear about the supposed torture Jonathan Martin had endured from Incognito over the course of the season, resulting in him at one point leaving the team to check himself into a mental hospital.
I myself hopped right on the bandwagon. I’m a sucker for stories about harassment and bigotry in sports. Reading articles and interviews, watching videos and scanning for some background information on each player, I hopped off the bandwagon and onto my computer, where I planned to pen an article ripping into Incognito for his arrogance. That piece was ultimately never published, or finished. This one will be.
The text messages (all 1,000+ of them) between Martin and Incognito were leaked to thebiglead.com where they currently sit for all eyes, and all lawyers, to see. The messages start with one from Martin, the victim, sent on October 20th, 2012. The first three words Martin says to Incognito read “You f*****g a**.” The conversation quickly jumps to prostitutes, STDs and bragging about taking video of some “undergrads going crazy” at a tailgate; enlightening stuff.
If you wish to read the entire conversation, go look it up, it isn’t hard to find. Reading through the messages was almost comical to me. It read like the conversation of two frat bros who had taken a few too many falls down slippery frat basement steps, with an occasional football reference here and there. Amidst the stupidity and talk of illegitimate children, the one thing that stood out above all else was that the two genuinely seemed like friends.
The most wonderful part of the initial story is how incredibly one-sided the entire ordeal was. Compared to some of the texts sent back and forth between the two, the now infamous voicemail left by Incognito on Martin’s phone is almost tame. The two have a fierce and well articulated debate over who will “get more [women]” before Incognito concludes that “by [women] u mean [penises] in ur mouth,” sealing the deal by telling Martin “I’m going to [defecate] in ur eye.” Debate round over, point Incognito.
Were Incognito’s texts derogatory, demeaning, rude, racist, and poorly spelled: absolutely. The fact that Martin’s were no better should not matter; neither of them intended to hurt one another whatsoever, the text message exchange paints the two as good friends who insulted one another the same way all good friends do. As one Reddit.com user pointed out somewhat accurately, “Richie Incognito seems like a pretty nice guy but likes prostitutes a lot.”
If you recall when the story initially broke, one of the more pressing issues was that Incognito had pressured Martin into paying for an entire trip to Las Vegas that Martin himself didn’t even want to attend. When Martin expressed to Incognito that he didn’t know if he could justify going on the trip with “what [he] had been dealing with lately”, Incognito replied with “It’s all good. Let me know if u need anything.” The pressure from Incognito can only be described as overwhelming.
In late October, when Martin left team facilities for what was reported as “personal reasons”, a string of texts to him, from Incognito read as follows: “Call me,” “yoo u alright text me back,” “u good dude?”, “What’s up dude Glad to hear Ur ok I’m here if u ever need to talk. I’ve been through enough s*** myself to understand,” “I miss ur stinky armpits,” and finally, “how u doing buddy? Feeling better?? I miss us”. Once Martin responds by telling his buddy Richie he is okay, Incognito replies with “…all thats important is that you feel better and know we miss u dude.” Interestingly enough, texts like this (they aren’t the only ones) were completely forgotten during the initial break of the harassment story.
While I did find myself genuinely laughing at some of the insults the two tossed around, the conversation took a much different turn on Nov. 1 when Incognito sent a screen capture of an article breaking the news of the supposed harassment with the accompanying text reading “Whats up with this?” When Martin responds by saying he had nothing to do with it, the last three texts are sent by Incognito, reading “I heard it’s all coming from ur agent?”, then, a day later, “I need you buddy im getting killed in the media,” and finally, when that garnered no response from Martin, “Bro can we talk? The Dolphins are talking about releasing me.” The conversation ends there.
Incognito was nothing more than a scapegoat for the Dolphins. His text messages were handpicked by the media and Martin’s agent to be released to the public to show just how horrible Richie Incognito was to his teammates. They took full advantage of a player with a known negative image and watched as he took a monumental fall.
Richie Incognito isn’t a saint by any means, but the interactions between he and Martin are closer to banter than harassment. It seemed as though at the end of the string of messages, Incognito felt truly betrayed by someone whom he thought of as a friend, and someone whom he clearly did care about.
Two NFL careers were ruined as a result of an incident that very easily could have been avoided. Could Incognito have been a little less offensive: sure. Could Martin have done the same: absolutely. But allowing your teammate and friend to shoulder the blame for your personal issues is inexcusable, and goes above and beyond any insults Incognito issued, including my personal favorite, “U r chubby.”