Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Miami Dolphins' Richie Incognito suspended amid reports of racial bullying

DAVIE — In the stadium program sold at the Miami Dolphins' game on Halloween, Richie Incognito was asked who's the easiest teammate to scare.

His answer: Jonathan Martin.

The troubled, troubling relationship between the two offensive linemen took an ominous turn Monday with fresh revelations: Incognito sent text messages to his teammate that were racist and threatening, the Associated Press reported, citing two unnamed sources.

The Dolphins and NFL hadn't disclosed the nature of the misconduct that led to Sunday's indefinite suspension of Incognito, a 30-year-old veteran with a reputation for dirty play and a history of rough behavior.

Amid reports of Martin's bullying, Incognito will not return to the team, the Miami Herald reported, citing unnamed team sources.

Martin, 24, a Classics major who attended Stanford and the son of two Harvard graduates, remained absent from practice. One week ago, the second-year tackle suddenly left the team because of emotional issues. Also missing Monday was Incognito.

The 319-pound Incognito is white. The 312-pound Martin is biracial.

Incognito left voicemails and sent Martin a series of racially tinged inflammatory texts, Fox Sports reported, citing unnamed sources.

The unfolding saga is forcing the NFL to uncomfortably turn its gaze toward locker-room culture and start defining the gray areas between good-natured pranks and hurtful bullying.

The team and NFL continued investigating allegations by Martin's representatives that he was bullied, and head coach Joe Philbin said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked league commissioner Roger Goodell for assistance. The NFL Players Association also planned to look into the matter.

"Every decision I've made, everything we've done in this facility has been done with one thing in mind," Philbin said. "That's to help our players and our organization reach their full potential. Any type of conduct (or) behavior that detracts from that objective is not acceptable and is not tolerated."

However, most incidents come with the tacit, unsupervised approval of coaches and executives, who see the pranks as a rite of passage.

Rookies often must carry teammates' equipment off the field. They are sometimes forced to sing or otherwise entertain teammates on demand, or they're left helplessly taped to goal posts.

They are often called names — Incognito referred to Martin, privately and publicly, as "The Big Weirdo."

Last year, Martin and other Miami rookies were subjected to deliberately bad haircuts from the hands of veterans. Offensive lineman Josh Samuda had his eyebrows shaved and his hair shaved into a penis-shaped Mohawk.

"Glad we're such a first-class organization, Josh," Philbin said to a room full of laughing teammates, the Miami Herald reported.

Martin has not spoken publicly, and neither he nor his agent responded to messages. Incognito fell silent after initially using Twitter to defend himself from media reports over the weekend.

It's unclear whether coaches or management had any inkling of harassment between the players before Martin left the team, and Philbin declined to answer a question about the locker-room culture.

After beating Cincinnati in overtime on Thursday, the Dolphins had returned to practice Monday and afterward found nearly 100 reporters and cameramen in their locker room.

The Dolphins next play Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Teammates praised both Incognito and Martin and expressed regret regarding their absences, but said it was time to get on with business.

"The only thing affecting us is we can't even get dressed," wide receiver Mike Wallace said as he surveyed the media throng.

Wallace, who is black, said he found Incognito to be intense but a good teammate. Newcomer Bryant McKinnie, who is also black, agreed.

"When I got here, he was a guy who had everybody laughing and told jokes," said McKinnie, a left tackle who joined the team two weeks ago. "I didn't really see the side being portrayed right now."

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

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