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Sunday, November 10, 2013
Dolphins' team 'culture' is fractured

By James Walker



This might be the norm for the Miami Dolphins, but this is simply not normal.

The Dolphins, according to suspended guard Richie Incognito, have a workplace environment in which threats, vulgar language and racial slurs are accepted.

"All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, it speaks to the culture of our closeness, it speaks to the culture of our brotherhood," Incognito said in an interview with Fox Sports on Sunday. "And the racism, the bad words, that's what I regret most. But that is a product of the environment."

Closeness? Brotherhood?

Incognito went public Sunday, defending himself against bullying accusations from teammate Jonathan Martin. According to Incognito, threatening each other and using vulgar language and epithets was the nature of their relationship -- Incognito portrayed it as a friendship -- and it went both ways.

Jeff Ireland
Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland assembled a team that suffers from deficient locker room leadership.
Martin eventually snapped, left the team on Oct. 28 and hired high-powered attorney David Cornwell. The NFL is investigating both parties.

Regardless of what side you're on, here is something everyone should be able to agree on: The Dolphins' culture is broken.

This is a locker room with no decorum or code of conduct. There are no standards, and Dolphins players went overboard. "I've taken stuff too far," Incognito, one member of the team’s six-player leadership council, admitted Sunday.

Leadership starts at the top, which brings us to Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin. They failed to set a tone of what was not acceptable in Miami's locker room.

In fact, I've been at virtually every Dolphins practice and media availability since the start of training camp and cannot recall seeing Ireland or Philbin step into the locker room. Not once.

Ireland is responsible for putting this team together. He spent more than $200 million this offseason alone to acquire talented players. But one thing Ireland didn't account for is leadership. Not only was Incognito a member of the leadership council, he was its most dominant personality. Is it possible Incognito was the leader of the leadership council? Imagine that.

The workplace environment has become a huge issue with the Dolphins. Incognito claimed Sunday that ugly racial slurs are the norm.

"It's thrown around a lot. It's a word that I've heard Jon use a lot," Incognito said of one derogatory term for African-Americans. "It's not saying it's right that I did it and used it in a voice mail. But it's a lot of colorful words that are being thrown around in a locker room that we don't use in everyday life."

This kind of workplace environment shouldn't be acceptable -- not in Miami or with any NFL team. The Dolphins are a franchise worth $1.2 billion, according to Forbes. It's time to act like it.

The time for giving a free pass to NFL locker rooms is over. The Incognito-Martin drama pulled back the curtain on a dark culture where virtually anything goes.

A line has to be drawn somewhere. Perhaps this controversy provided the spotlight needed to prompt change throughout the NFL.