Pro-Incognito Fins leave no room for Martin
November, 7, 2013
By James Walker | ESPN.com
DAVIE, Fla. -- It's time for Jonathan Martin to leave the Miami Dolphins. Miami's locker room has spoken -- and it sided with Richie Incognito.
How do you explain the wild turn of events within the Dolphins on Wednesday?
Surprising? Unique? Bizzare?
Player after player offered overwhelming support for Incognito, who, on Sunday night, was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team after Martin's representatives presented evidence of harassment and misconduct to the Dolphins, the NFL and the NFLPA.
It was clear in Miami's locker room that Martin -- not Incognito -- is viewed as the villain in this strange and twisted saga.
Martin walked out on the team before a big game due to a lunchroom prank.
Martin is thin-skinned and cannot handle the rugged and macho NFL culture.
Martin betrayed a veteran leader who was showing tough love.
Martin was a turncoat who caused a media firestorm and full-scale investigation of the team at an important part of its season.
That was the vibe on Wednesday.
AP Photo/J Pat CarterQB Ryan Tannehill said Richie Incognito was Jonathan Martin's best friend on the team.
"I think if you have a problem with somebody -- a legitimate problem with somebody -- you should say, 'I have a problem with this,' and stand up and be a man," Dolphins offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said. "I don't think what happened is necessary. I don't know why he's doing this. And the only person who knows why is Jonathan Martin."
The Dolphins are an interesting case study. This is no longer just a sports story. This is a story that touches on race, bullying and the complex culture and tight fraternity of NFL locker rooms.
The transcript of Incognito's infamous voicemail to Martin is ugly and offensive to most. However, Miami players, to a man, were able to look the other way and felt Martin should have been able to do the same.
"I never thought it was a death threat," Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said. "I never thought he was actually going to do the things he said. If you can't take validity from one part of the voice mail, how do you take validity from the whole voice mail? You can't pick and choose what parts count and which parts don't count."
According to Dolphins players, Incognito was Martin's friend, mentor and protector. The players never saw this breakup coming -- especially at the expense of Incognito likely losing his job.
Dolphins players are angry about it, especially the veterans, and it's best Martin doesn't return to a place where he already felt uncomfortable and out of place.
Several players were asked Wednesday if Martin would be welcomed back to the locker room. They declined comment.
"That's not my position to take on that," Hartline said. "I do have a position, but I don't think it's fair to share it."
By not answering, it seems pretty clear what side of the fence Hartline and many Dolphins players were on Wednesday. Whether society agrees or not, Miami's players chose Incognito over Martin.